Joining Forces

Story by Carrie Trout

They call him the Duke. Rod Olsen, Brent Trout and Kateri Cowley managed to help ten horses get a good start. All were ridden by their owners.

They call him the Duke. Rod Olsen, Brent Trout and Kateri Cowley helped ten horses get a good start at this June 5-6 clinic. All were ridden by their owners.

“It was a fantastic weekend!”

“Can I quote you on that?” I laughed as I looked up into the elated face of clinic participant Jen Downey. It was June 6, 2015. The event: a colt starting clinic with Brent Trout, Rod Olsen and Kateri Cowley, held at Cheadle, Alberta. The two-day clinic, organized by Darla Connolly, welcomed ten horses and their soon-to-be riders, who were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get a proper start on their colts. They were not disappointed – all ten horses were started on the first day and all the riders were able to get on them.

I asked participants what brought them to the clinic. “I found the clinic online and I have a little two-year-old filly who has never been really worked with at all, apart from the basic confidence-building stuff with her, and she is going to be my forever saddle horse, I hope,” said participant Erin Power. “I want to start her right on the ground. So I came here with the intention of ground work and the obstacles, so we can start building that partnership.”

Rod working the flag from one colt, while helping another.

Rod working the flag from one colt, while helping another.

Partnership was key to the weekend. Darla Connolly was the organizing force of the clinic, lining up the arena, round pen, obstacles, ground crew, food and horse accommodations. She was prompted to organize this clinic in order to expand her current knowledge of colt starting.

Brent Trout is well known for his partnership with his liberty horse, Chexmate. Together they have demonstrated their skills across Alberta by leading clinics and colt starting demonstrations. Darla met Brent when she was a participant of the Canadian Colt Starting Competition.

Brent helping a colt learn to lunge.

Brent helping a colt learn to lunge.

Brent has been following his vision of working with other trainers who can offer specialized training. After being asked to be part of Darla’s clinic, he, in turn, contacted Rod Olsen to join forces. Years ago, while living in southern Alberta, Brent was invited to do a colt starting demonstration at the Pincher Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This is where he met Rod, who was also giving a demonstration, and it became a yearly event. When Brent became involved in the Canadian Colt Starting Competition, he encouraged Rod to participate. Rod has now won the event two times.

Joining forces helped in another way, too. On May 11, Brent had a kidney transplant. This was an opportunity that could change his life, but it would debilitate him in the short term. Rod was able to carry the workload at this event, and Kateri Cowley, recent participant of the Mane Event Trainer’s Challenge and winner of last year’s Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge, was also invited to come on board.

Rod introducing obstacles to a colt participant.

Rod introducing obstacles to a colt participant.

Darla and the participants found that while the three trainers have different approaches, they complimented each other; seeing different methods in action added to the learning experience. Darla is looking forward to organizing other colt starting clinics in the future.

How To Crack a Whip

Have a hankering to whip-break your horse? Here are a few tips from professional cowboy, Sam Morrison for desensitizing your mount properly.

By Jenn Webster



1) Start this process from the ground. It works best with a halter and lead shank, but as you can see in these pictures I am demonstrating the technique with a horse that has approximately three days of experience with a whip already. It can be done with or without a saddle. I start by gently swinging my whip one of two swings at first over the horse’s withers, without any sound. I continue repeating this process until the horse is calm and standing still and tolerating the touch of the whip laying over him. As the horse becomes better with it, I swing the whip over the wither three to four times.

If at any point the horse decides to leave, that’s okay. He may have to move his feet to help him become more accepting of the whip. Holding tight to my inside rein or lead rope, I simply allow the horse to move in circles around me and I start swinging the whip in a gradual motion in front of the horse’s front feet. I never touch his front legs with it, nor do I try and scare him with the whip. I simply want to use it to discourage any more forward motion. Then I can go back to swinging it over the withers. In the meantime, it gives him some experience with the sensation of a rope (or a whip) near his lower legs.


2) Once the horse is quiet with the whip going over his withers three or four times in a row, I progress to constant swinging. I will finally add one crack of sound in and let the horse process what just happened. In doing so, however, I must ensure that I start out with a soft “pop” as opposed to a full-on crack of the whip and that the sound is always directed away from the horse’s face or ears.


3) When the horse can consistently handle step #2, it’s time to work the whip down the horse’s body. Standing on the same side as I began, I gently begin throwing my whip over the horse’s back, just the same as I did at the wither. Once he can handle that, I advance to his hind end- gently throwing my whip around his hind legs and so on. I will do this repeatably in each spot and get the horse desensitized to the whip being tangled on, or around each part of the body until he is no longer afraid of it. If at any point the horse shows that he is uncomfortable, it’s best to keep going at it but retract back to a point on the body where the horse is comfortable with the whip being laid over. For instance, many times the wither is a great point at which to revert back. My advice is not to progress forward to the next point on the horse’s body until he is consistently relaxed with the last phase.


4) After the horse can accept the whip being gently laid over each part of his body, it’s time to move forward and begin introducing the sound of the whip to the horse. Up until this point, I’ve only begun to acquaint the horse to soft “pops,” but as we all know the sound of a whip is much more piercing. Once soft pops are tolerated, I can begin making my whip sound much louder. I’ll start with one loud crack and then two loud cracks in a row, taking note to ensure my horse is comfortable with everything before I progress further. Once I’ve gotten all of these aspects really solid on the ground, even if it’s my horse’s first day with the whip, I could get on his back and slowly start swinging and cracking my whip around. By the next day, I would start on the ground again, before progressing to the horse’s back. The key is to work on everything at least three days in a row- three days ensures you get the information locked into your horse. After that, you should be able to work on cracking your whip loudly right off the at without any problem if you have properly worked to build confidence in your horse when introducing the whip into his training regime. Any shorter than three days, however, may not be enough to properly ingrain whip-brokenness into your horse.


Sam Morrison has years of experience in feedlot situations, using a whip to ease the task of moving cattle. He has studied the art of whip-ology from Australian master whip maker, William Gough. Gough, now residing in Saskatchewan, has 41 accumulating years of whip handling and was the Australian Whip Cracking Champion for five consecutive years.

Day Three High and Wild Adventure



This was it. After the last few days of preparation, learning, and practice, it was all coming together. We were so eager, and perhaps a little nervous for the outcome, but today we went on our first ride with our horses.

We spent the morning watching Glenn work with a black mare. He was demonstrating the importance of proper warm up on the ground to prepare our horses for the upcoming trail ride. The mare, Spider, was on high alert, and only got her first ride outside the round pen just last year. Glenn is the only one that has worked with her, just a little on each of his trips here for the past three years.

Glenn figured it was time to see what she remembered. Like Elvis from the day before, she started off a little uncertain but it did not take long for her to remember the training from previous years. She trusted Glenn so much that he was able to trim her feet with the lead rope on the ground, while she stood perfectly still with out problem. I know of many domestic horses that don’t stand well for the farrier. This mare was very well behaved and clearly enjoyed her “pedicure”.

After some minor maintenance, Glenn started with the fundamentals. We all watched with our glued eyes on him and the horse to gauge her reaction to his cues, which in many cases were so subtle they were undetectable to all but Spider. Again, his horsemanship development program was the key throughout this session. I don’t like to say training, because it didn’t really feel like a training session. It felt more like a dance, and the development of a harmonious partnership. When I picture a training session, I picture intense, hard work, running around with sweat pouring off the horse and a frantic expression in their eyes. That was not the case here. This was unique, as it was done with ease and had a flow that built up communication, trust and understanding.

As he continued, Glenn talked us through each step of preparing our horses on the ground and offered key advice of what to do in different situations with our own horses. It was clear that every horse and human can be improved, no matter how advanced they may be. There is always something more to learn.


Eventually, Glenn had the mare accepting of the Australian whip, red flag, blue tarp, and lariat, just as he had with Elvis from the previous day. He saddled and even hopped on her, demonstrating a show of great trust and teamwork between the two.


This display of terrific horsemanship and precise instruction had us all inspired to see what we could do with our own horses. It wasn’t long before we took the horses out to see what we could accomplish with them. It was wonderful to observe everyone applying what we had garnered from the demonstration to their own horses. All were working on following a feel, drive and draw games, moving the different body parts in yields with relaxation, lateral flexion and, most importantly, building a relationship of trust with a lot of friendly games.

My own steed was a stout bay with a neck thick enough to hold up an elephant. His kinky and curly black mane was just long enough to fall onto his eyes, mimicking a “punk rocker” look, and did he ever have the attitude to go with it! The number one thing on his mind was eating, and my trying to play with him was certainly getting in the way of that. However, we did finally reach a compromise. He would give me a little appropriate response, and he could have a little grass. Who says wild horses starve? I have seen much skinnier horses on self-feed.

Eventually, it was time to saddle, and after Glenn inspected our skills with our horses from the ground, we were allowed to hop on to demonstrate them from the saddle. What had seemed fairly easy while on the ground became obviously less so once we were mounted. Glenn offered some additional training instruction and safety checks. Then, we were off for our first trail ride. This was the moment most of us had been waiting for since our plane’s wheels hit the ground. We were riding. We were riding horses that were born here in the wild, in the most beautiful places we had ever seen.

One by one, in a single file fashion, we weaved and snaked around trees, through ditches and over fallen logs following one of the many game trails. Glenn was in the lead, and he was riding Spider, the mare from this morning’s demonstration. It was hard to believe that she has only been ridden once before, and not for over a year, and she was amazing.

We skirted around the river following its bend and flow, with mountains surrounding us on all sides. My eyes were wandering around, observing the beautiful mountainside, the trees and wildlife. I was so impressed with all of the horses. They were calm, steady and sure-footed. Even the most nervous of the riders seemed relaxed and steady. The horses all knew the terrain, and if you did not get in the way, they easily went down trails that most domestic horses would have a hard time managing.

One might think that traveling this amazing trail would be enough. However, I am learning while working with Glenn that he will take any opportunity to challenge us emotionally and physically to enhance personal growth. He led us to a side trail and instructed us to dismount and tie our horses to a tree, up high and secure. He took us toward the rushing river, but in order to get there we had to cross a bog by balancing on the “ever so skinny” felled trees that were lying across.

“It is mind over matter” Glenn said, “and pretend you’re walking on your kitchen floor”. That did work for the first three people over, but after awhile one by one we slid off the tree and ended up stepping in the water to keep from falling completely into it. Of course I had my slick souled cowboy boots on at the time, and those mixed with water and an old tree with a 4” diameter did not do me any favors. Down I went, just barely catching myself (or dropping my camera) by submerging my foot into the water. Needless to say I came out with my boots full of water, and they even made the slushing sound when I walked. However, I can save face by pointing out that I was not the only one to get wet.


We continued to the banks of the river by scrambling around the bend, across more felled trees and large, jagged rocks, finally arriving at the river. It was truly an amazing sight to just sit and look around. It was a fabulous and fantastic sight to behold, with mountains in the background, lush green clearings and trees along the banks. Add the rushing clear river, and the whole setting was picture perfect.

After taking in these glorious sights, we headed back across the rocks, and back over the log to get back to our horses (I might add that I made it completely across without falling but of course no one was there to witness my success). Fortunately the horses were all still there, standing quietly where we left them.

After we were all safely mounted, we backtracked a little until Glenn wandered toward the river. We crossed a shallow side stream and sat on a rock built up in the middle of the river.

To my surprise, and probably a few other people’s, Glenn seemingly casual, talked about crossing rivers and the importance of following his footsteps, avoiding the big rocks or boulders, and not to stare into the water. What great advice! However, we have all learned this week that Glenn doesn’t say anything casually. It was all-important, and it was clear that you could risk your own safety if you do not listen to every word he utters.

Before I knew it, our entire line of horses and people started across. I might also add that this was my first river crossing of this kind, well of any kind. Puddles and maybe the odd three foot wide, shallow stream back home was more my speed. It was my time to stretch my comfort zone, and with Glenn leading us and my big war horse carrying me across, I felt confident.

The freezing water came up just past my horse’s belly, and immersed my toes. As I looked down at the water, it felt like I was drifting away. Yes, Glenn said don’t look down at the water, and I can see why. It was like an optical illusion. Every step my horse took I felt like we were floating sideways with the current and further and further from the rest. However, eventually the deep water got shallower, the river stones turned to slick bank mud, and my big trusty steed climbed the out to the meet with the other horses.

“WE MADE IT,” I thought to myself. I gave my horse a quick pat on the back and we were off again down the trail, this time angling back towards the lodge. The sun was just coming down from it’s peak in the sky and when it hit the tops of the trees just right, it would make beams of light that accentuated the true beauty of where we were riding.


Of course to make it back to the lodge we had to cross the river, again. This time was much easier, because though wider at this spot, the water was quite a bit shallower than the last crossing. Add to that, the horses were eager to return home and to the herd making them move with ease and speed across the river.

We unsaddled with smiles on our faces at what we had accomplished that day. And boy, did it feel satisfying. We brushed down our horses for a good day’s work and let them out for the night. They ran just far enough to drop and enjoy a roll in the dirt before running over the hill to join the rest of them just as the sun sank behind the toothed peaks signaling the end of another day.

Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.

Taming the Turn-Out Monster

Turning horses out to pasture or paddock is a straightforward task – until the horse decides when it’s time for him to leave. With all this cold weather we’ve been having, sometimes it’s hard to muster up the gumption to go out and ride. So if the frosty temperatures have been keep your feet out of the stirrups, now might be the perfect time to work on other areas with your horse that may need improvement. Practicing ground manners, for instance, is a great task to challenge your horse with – without getting him all sweated up in the dead of winter. Here are a few tips from professional trainer, Clay Webster for bringing your Turn-Out Monster back to reality.

Horses that receive daily turn-out are sometimes likely to kick up their heels a little when they see the sunlight in the morning. As the handler leads the animal out to the turn-out paddock, the horse may seem two steps in front of his person. Then when it comes time to walk through the gate and release him, the horse is blowing past the handler with little to no concern for the human.

Although it may seem like the most basic training principle, there are significant safety concerns for handlers when horses are ready to leave the halter before the person is ready to undo the latch or knot.
STEP-BY- STEP Instructions for Improving the Ground Manners of a Turn-Out Monster:
1. If I’m the person taking the horse to turn-out and there are other horses in the same paddock, I want to ensure those other horses aren’t positioned near the gate. This can be dangerous as it can initiate one horse to kick at another, and myself or the horse I am leading would be directly in the middle. You don’t want to turn your horse loose where you put yourselves in danger. If other horses are hanging around the gate, I want to shoo them away first prior to entering through the gate myself.

2. Once we’re through the gate, I want to turn my horse to face the gate and essentially position his rear end away from it. This allows me to use space and positioning in my favor. As I turn my horse loose, he won’t run by and potentially kick up at me along the way.


3. A safety tactic to ensure my body is in a good place before I let the horse go is to position my feet in front of the horse’s front feet and at the horse’s eye. This way I prevent myself from being stepped on and I’m in a good place, should I need to grab on to the horse again.


4. I usually put the horse’s lead rope over his neck prior to undoing the halter so I can hold my horse there, even when the halter is no longer in tact. It’s no different than the safety precautions you would take with a horse during bridling (and removing the halter). But in a way, I’m also testing my horse to see if he will bolt away or if he will stay with me until I instruct him to leave.

5. This is where the “Turn Out Monster” will rear his ugly head, if the horse is particularly used to running away from the handler. It’s important not to let go of the lead rope and give the horse his freedom until he is absolutely quiet. And when that happens, it’s okay to release the rope gradually and let the horse go. On that note however, if the horse makes even the slightest notion of bolting, you must ensure to stop him with the neck rope and try it again! Repetition and the release of pressure are what will properly train the Turn-Out Monster out of your horse. That’s why it’s imperative to continually retest the horse, even when he is not trying to bolt. Our horses need to understand that they will not always be released immediately after the halter is removed. The animal must be listening to you at all times.


In many cases, if my horse is absolutely tuned-into me, he will actually “stick around” once the halter is removed. If he is in no rush to leave my side and he doesn’t crowd my space, I know that he respects me.

BIO – Clay Webster is a professional reining and cow horse trainer based near Calgary, Alberta. Throughout an equine career that has spanned over 20 years, Webster has handled and trained thousands of horses. His horses are required to perform high level maneuvers in the show pen, but one of his biggest pet peeves are mounts with few ground manners. Horses that break prematurely away from their owners in anticipation of turn-out fall into this latter category.

Dunning’s Cow Horse Words of Wisdom


Photo by Cappy Jackson.

If you’re in the Scottsdale, Arizona, area this winter, it may be well worth your time to check out Almosta Ranch – home of 37-time World Champion and Reserve World Champion, Al Dunning. As an American Quarter Horse Association approved judge for 27 years and serving on numerous association boards since 1970, Dunning’s expertise in reining, working cow horse and cutting is extensive. We had a chance to catch up with Dunning at a Canadian cow horse clinic where he shared several of his tips for choosing “pay” cattle, taking control of the cow and proper rider positioning to increase a cow horse score. Here are nine of the top tips we picked up on:


Photo by Deanna Kristensen.


#1 – The principles of cutting and boxing are the same. The horse should always move in straight lines, approaching in a straight line, stopping, turning and advancing with the cow again in a straight line. Ideally the horse should “mirror” what the cow does, hitting the stop at the same time as the cow. Then as the cow changes direction, it should essentially “pull” the horse with it through the turn.

“The goal is to hit the stop, stop straight and wait for the cow to turn. Turn with it and then get straight again,” says Dunning. “You donʼt want to run at the cow. Let the cow pull you. Hit that stop and ensure you have equal rein pressure in both of your hands while doing so.”

#2 – Stopping straight is key in both boxing and cutting for maintaining position. If the horse stops crookedly, he puts more stress on one side of his body instead of distributing it evenly through both hocks. Stopping straight also allows the horse to be in an optimal position for lifting his cow-side shoulder to turn quickly with the cow. If a horse tends to drop its cow-side shoulder into the cow, he will have trouble hitting the stop and sweeping through himself.


#3 – “The hardest part about cutting out a single cow from a herd is getting them far enough up away from their buddies. The horse and rider need to move that cow into a good working position to mark some points. Make a plan for advancing towards a cow, then execute it. Choose which side of the cow you are going to go, then proceed. Think about what you want to do with that cow.”

#4 – “I donʼt like a cow that looks like it is going to go to sleep or run you over and go back to the herd. I like a cow that when you say, ʻbooʼ to it, it wants to go away. Conversely, I donʼt like cows that want to get too close to you either. I want the cow that will get away from you and move and will give you some work. Those are the ones that you can win something on.”

#5 – “When the cattle come into the arena and during all the previous works before me, I pay close attention. I will mark all the cows on on a sheet. ʻGAʼ is a go-again cow – one that I like. GA means that someone just cut that cow a little bit and I saw how it moves. This is a cow that is really good and attentive and didnʼt push on the rider. This is a cow that will not run you over, will give you a little room and work really well.”

#6 – “I like to see if thereʼs a cow in there that kind of walks out and walks back to the herd, but still looks attentive. Thatʼs the cow that I want to cut. Then again, If you go to cut a specific cow when you walk out and a cow goes to the top and you know it is fresh, you have to remember: Itʼs better to cut a bad cow good, than a good cow bad. That is a really famous term by Buster Welch.”

Photo by Natalie Jackman.

Photo by Natalie Jackman.


#7 – “When going down the fence, the rider can actually shove the cow ahead faster. Which makes it difficult to get the cow turned at the marker or before the arena corner. Schooling oneʼs horse at home while working a cow down the fence is key to show ring success. Make sure you are relating your dry work practice to fence work with keeping a focus on body control and softness while chasing after a bovine.”

#8 – “Don’t confuse activity with excellence. When your horse gets too busy, he may not actually be doing anything.”

#9 – When I go around the corner I set my hand down temporarily before we go down the fence. My hand might not stay there as I may pick it up again but it gives my horse a chance to breath and “get there” instead of me hanging on his face the whole time. We need to turn the head loose! I want to ensure the rider is not balancing themselves on the reins or the horse’s head as they prepare to go down the fence. If so, they won’t have the proper riding position for a safe turn when the cow decides to go another direction.

Buck Brannaman in the Foothills

Buck Brannaman. Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.

Thanks to Billie-Jean Duff for contributing both the photos and text for this post about the recent Buck Brannaman clinic held near High River, Alberta. See more of Billie-Jean’s work at Roughstock Studio. 

With regular frequency, I pop into the local video store to rent a copy of The Horse Whisperer, starring Robert Redford and Scarlett Johansen.The awe inspiring scenery illustrated throughout film, along with beautiful feats of horsemanship moves me to tears every time I curl up to watch it. As many of you know, Buck Brannaman played a significant role in the production of the movie, both behind the scenes, in addition to being Redford’s stunt double. The horse whisperer extraordinaire himself was in southern Alberta recently.

Held at the High River Agriculture Society’s rodeo grounds, located on the outskirts of High River, Buck Brannaman hosted a Horsemanship 1&2 clinic. Two groups of riders, 25 riders in each class over three days took part in the clinic, with Horsemanship 1 receiving instruction during the morning and Horsemanship 2 filling the afternoon time slot. The clinic was sponsored by Denise & Keith Stewart, owners of Key Ranch, located southwest of High River.

The clinic isn’t limited to horses with people problems, though. Spectators of all ages came out in droves, braving the almost blizzard like conditions to claim a piece of real estate in the bleachers, so they could listen to Buck coaching and addressing concerns that riders had with their mounts. Comprised of mostly young horses, riders of both English and western disciplines participated in the school; they all had one thing in common, they were all in attendance to learn to understand and connect with their equine partners.

The group learns from renowned Buck Brannaman. Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.

Having never experienced a live Brannaman clinic before, as the morning progressed, it became quite overwhelmingly clear; he is a master at his craft. He speaks without beating around the bush, phrasing ideas and concepts in a way that even the most novice of horseman can make sense of the information, often filling his wisdom he shares with witty remarks and a no-holds barred sense of humor. When a spectator inquires as to how Buck would handle a one-rein stop on a half-broke colt while riding on a steep slope, Buck’s response was to ponder why anyone would ride a half-broke colt on a steep slope to begin with. With a hearty laugh, he said he calls this “natural selection.”

Buck Brannaman. Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.

Everybody will take home horsemanship knowledge from a Buck Brannaman clinic, it may only be one key piece of wisdom that pertains to a particular project you have in the round pen at home, or it may be a whole new mindset in how you approach that round pen. For me, three elements took root:

  • On Soft Feel…It’s not about how much pressure you put on, it’s how good you are at taking it off. This phrase was used while talking about giving to the bit, or soft feel. You must be able to respond with the subtlest release so that the horse may give you. The release is the reward to the horse.
  • On Backing Circles…With the young horse backing circles, a spectator inquires about the nose being tipped to the outside. Buck explains this is simply because he’s thinking ahead, for when he asks the horse to turn, moving forward out of the circle. It’s the progression to the next step, like looking to the third barrel while coming around second.
  • Learn more sooner, you won’t have to correct more later. Do things correct from the start. Don’t rush the training process. You won’t have to spend time correcting problems in the future.

No matter your level of horsemanship, arm yourself with a thermos of hot coffee, a cushion for the most uncomfortable bleachers, lots of pens or pencils, and plenty of paper to take notes. Don’t try to watch the progress of each participant, hone in on a handful of horses/riders to follow their progress. You will see significant improvements in both horses and their riders by day three. And, do observe Buck – after all, he’s why you’re there, right?

Starting the Barrel Horse

So you have a horse that you think can be a barrel horse, or you want to be a barrel horse. How do you know when or if they are ready to get started? I am going to write from my personal experiences, and share with you.

We all get in the mode of: Lets do this, and then we head straight to the pattern. Whether it be right or wrong, who am I to say, but first off let us review a few things. Any horses that I have had in for outside training or riding, or even with giving lessons, yes, they seem to know the pattern, but there are some real important elements of foundation missing. Not with all of them, but generally most of them. Without a foundation, when your horse blows up, which they eventually will, you have nothing to fall back on, or to go back to, to reinforce the basics.

First of all, can your horse stop? And I don’t mean lean into the bit and trickle down, pushing on you the whole way with their back end trailing behind and bouncing on their front end. Can they stop, use themselves, be smooth, have timing, and respond to your body cues?

Kendra Edey preparing to achieve a balanced stop. Photo by Joel Edey

Secondly, can they cross over with their front end, not swinging their hind out, and do a proper roll back by pivoting on their hind foot?

Kendra Edey having her horse cross over with his front end. Photo by Joel Edey

Shoulder control – does your horse respond to when you pick them up with the bit, or is it a power struggle?

Can you lope a smaller circle, or any sized circle for that matter, and have their hip engage underneath itself?

Kendra Edey teaching her young horse how to engage his hip underneath himself. Photo by Joel Edey

Also, are they soft in the face? When you put pressure on their mouth, do they give? Are you in charge of the throttle?

At any time, whether it be on the ground or on their back, you can reinforce all of the above. Manners are what it comes down to. I am not condoning being cruel; but have a respectful boundary, especially for safety.

Personally, if your horse cannot do some of these, or any of these, I would advise working on it and staying away from the pattern until it know these things. A horse does not have to be wound up and crazy to be able to run barrels and compete. They need to be broke, and be able to be efficient where those hundredths of a second counts. Without these basics, a horse cannot work to their full potential and will either end up hurting themselves, scaring themselves, or not lasting very long as a barrel horse. I work on these things daily, for me and for the horses I ride. Whether you are going for a joy ride, or practice, always ride and practice with a purpose. Bring out the champion in both you and your horse. Everybody has different opinions on what it takes to make a barrel horse, but this is what has worked for me.

Take what you like from it and best of luck.

Cowboys and Colts

Shortly after graduating from university, with a Bachelor of Commerce, Gregg Garvie headed to Australia to play professional hockey. He returned home to Alberta after almost a year to continue playing hockey, which he says, “never panned out”. He then had aspirations to become a veterinarian, and went to work at a feedlot alongside a vet there. He says he always sat back and watched the cowboys working, and training their horses, and decided that is what he really wanted to do. From that moment on, Gregg put everything aside to be a trainer and work with horses.

Gregg has a very calming and gentle approach, and seems to have a “horse whisperer” type of demeanor when it comes to training. I have had the opportunity to watch Gregg with several horses, and he is great at what he does. But when talking with him, he certainly does not give himself the credit he deserves. He told me that, when he rides with great trainers, he considers himself a “rank amateur.” I had to laugh, as he was riding around on a pretty broncy colt at the time and getting along just fine.

Gregg has devoted his free time to ride with Sid Cook, whom he considers to be a great mentor for himself. Gregg applies techniques he has learned from Sid Cook, Tom Dorrance, and Ray Hunt into his training program. He states there is so much truth to Tom Dorrance’s words: “Timing, Feel, and Balance”.

Ground work with some flagging to gain control and get the horse moving freely.

The horses that Gregg works with get to do a little bit of everything. It is not strictly arena work. He is not shy about heading out to the field, packing a rope, moving cattle, or jumping at any opportunity that might be good for the horse.

Gregg uses a colt to take a stray yearling back out to pasture.

The most important thing, in his mind, when Gregg works with a horse, is that it is not tight and can cross over with their hind end.

“Pretty much all the time, when they step off the trailer, you know right away. About 90% of the horses I get, or ‘problem horses’ that come to me, it seems that they are not freed up and have no idea how to use themselves properly”.

Gregg achieving the hind end control he likes for a horse.

Gregg trains out of his homeplace near Priddis. You can find him on Facebook at Gregg Garvie Horses.

Into the Bridle – Part 4

Our final installment of this series on long lining from Dan James. You can find Part Three here, and Part One was featured in the May/June issue of Western Horse Review.


Step 7 – Direct Inside Rein Obstacle

Here, you will use the body control that you have taught in order to navigating an obstacle. This will allow you to use body position to control where your horse is travelling in a larger arena.

Set up an obstacle in the arena, be it a barrel, cone or drum. Begin your horse in a smaller circle at the trot, asking him to move out around you. Take him closer to the barrel by driving him towards his shoulder, allowing him to pass between yourself and the obstacle for the first few time. When you are correctly positioned, you will send him around the barrel. Let your horse come between, then repeat sending him around. Here, you will gain a firm understanding and feel of exactly where you need to be to move your horse around the arena.

Step 8 – Two Reins in the Arena

Here, take the opportunity to be patient and regain your feel for handling both your horse and the two long reins. Ask your horse to move into a circle at an easy trot and work on your hand coordination, switching from both hands to one hand and back again. Work on your circling, transitioning from large to small to larger once again. Employ your feel and understanding to judge where your horse is at and how they are progressing through these steps.

If you have been successful to this point, you can confidently send her to the end of your rein, accentuating the transition from large to small. Only when you have a competent feel for this point should you move to the next step.

Change of direction at this step is slightly more involved because of the distance between yourself and your horse and the speed at which he will be travelling. You will need to be conscious of your reins in your hands and your whip carriage. It should stay low and in the right hand. When you need to use it on the offside, simply bring it across and under your long reins, use it, then put it back in position.

Here, ask for a trot and then a lope in a larger then smaller circle then larger again, using the ‘spiraling’ technique, in with the inside rein and out with the outside rein. Finally, ask for a trot and then a halt, rewarding a successful session.

Only after you have successfully accomplished circling, left and right, speed control at a trot and lope and negotiating size of circles will you move to changing direction in the large arena with two reins.

Begin on the offside at the ¾ position at a walk. Keeping a forward walk, switch inside reins and ask for an easy change of direction. Make sure that you have mastered this technique at a walk before you move up to a trot.

When you are moving faster, you will remain at the ¾ position. The steps are all the same, only moving at a faster pace. Ask for the circle and once you arrive at the center, switch directions by changing reins and moving to the offside ¾ position. Ensure that you establish a good forward circle before you ask for the change to avoid difficulty in keeping the forward momentum. Ideally, you want to achieve the confidence to ask for this change of direction both in larger circles as well in tighter circles, obviously more difficult.

Step 9 – Long Reining from Behind

It is imperative here to maintain a good distance (1 to 1 ½ horse lengths) behind your horse. You will need to keep your horse in an active walk and maintain forward momentum so that he stays straight. Extend your arms and lengthen your reins until you approach the corner, where you will gather your reins once again, move slightly to the outside and fall in behind when the corner is completed. Repeat this exercise the other way, ideally completing a figure eight pattern through the arena. Arrive at the center and ask for a stop. Ensure again that you have maintained that good distance back from your horse’s hind end.

The next task is to move to a more involved task, achieving a serpentine-type flow. Make a straight line directly up the arena and begin by travelling straight for five strides. You will then ask for five strides in one direction, then turn back to the line, where you will repeat the five strides, then the turn back to the line. When you have arrived at the end of the arena, circle up and repeat. While you are starting out, there will inevitably be times when you need to check your distance and your rein handling during this exercise as there is a lot going on. Be conscious not to ask too hard for the turn, or the horse will break off the line at too great of an angle. Keep your hands soft, keep your body in position and be conscious of your striding to complete this successfully.

If you have gone through these exercises methodically and consistently, you should have achieved a solid foundation by the end of these steps. Repeat them and work on a soft, relaxed horse in the long reins before you move forward to the next level of Double Dan Horsemanhip’s training techniques.