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Calming Nervous Horse On Trails


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#1 ShadowGirl

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 08:09 PM

My horse is great when riding with other horses, but you take him out by himself and he gets nervous and thinks monsters are out to get him. Any idea's on how i can get him to relaxe and calm down when its just us as i normally ride alone. Someone mentioned ryhthem beads?
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#2 Spotted Image

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 08:41 PM

Sounds to me he needs ridden in the trails more by his self. Try talking to him pat him, relax your self. Have fun and he should have more fun. I have trained a few horses for the trails and some never fully get over this fear. Make sure you show the horse it's safe. Do you have about a four hour trail ride by your place. If you do, take a friend who knows how to ride with another horse. Both plan on meeting up have way, friend can be alone or with a group it doesn't matter. Let your horse hang out for around 10 to 20 minutes with the other horse before finishing the trail. When you get back to the start let the horse hang out with others. This may need repeated many times. You can do this with any length of a ride, but I like a 4 hour trail ride because it gives the horse time, but have also had this work with 1 hour rides, 2 hours rides and 3 hours ride. If we live closer I would do this with you has my mare needs some work in this area. Don't post him, let him take his time and enjoy the ride is the main thing. NEVER tense up.
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#3 TexJer

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 07:01 AM

QUOTE (Spotted Image @ May 7 2009, 02:41 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Don't post him, let him take his time and enjoy the ride is the main thing. NEVER tense up.


That's what I'm thinking too. I really believe a horse can sense when we are happy/mad/tense etc.

I've NEVER EVER understood why people start hitting and yelling at their horses when the horse gets upset or scared. Like whipping a kid and telling them to stop crying IMHO!

Start short and easy.........work up from there. Be careful and good luck!
You can fix ugly, but it's hard to fix "stupid"

#4 Peppers Dad

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 09:39 AM

Shadow Girl,

I have gelding that can be scared of his own shadow at times, he's the lowest in pecking order of 3 horses. If I ride the road he doesn't like to cross bridges, or going past some farm houses, especially if there are cows or heifers in pastures. I have gotten off & lead him past these evil monsters, & his desire to get home was stronger than any fear from the evil monsters in his head. But in the process we did alot of turning around & going back, & did it calmly, it might be a game he plays, as he is very lazy horse. But not one that is going to blow up, I wish you well with your gelding. Best Wishes. PD

#5 eeyore4176

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 11:50 AM

Lots of time in the saddle out on your own. Start out with short rides. When you get to the areas that the monsters live in, spend some time in that area to let your horse know there is nothing to be afraid of. I started with my gelding just going down to the end of our driveway and back, over and over. Then we would ride the field. Then it was down to the stop sign and back. He is still a bit spooky every now and then, but we can get a couple miles from home without any issues.

I almost always ride by myself when I'm at home. The dogs occasionally go. Some days that is a good thing, others (like when they run out of the brush) not so good. It's gotten us a lot more experience for those unexpected deer on the trail though, so I guess I appreciate them helping me train. The older two horses do not care for the cows on the corner of our dead end road. Had to start by getting off and leading them past. Then when we started riding past, it was on the other side of the road up in the field. Now we can go by on the road, but they still snort & prance. This has gone on for close to 3 years. I've had my gelding up to the fence about 2-3 feet away and his entire body was shaking from him being so nervous. He stood there and I just kept patting him and praising him. He didn't move to leave until I let him know it was time to go.

I also talk when I notice the horse or myself getting a little nervous. Neighbors probably think I'm a nut job when I'm carrying on a one sided conversation with my horse, but it seems to help him relax more and pay attention to me instead of the surroundings.

Edited by eeyore4176, 07 May 2009 - 11:51 AM.

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#6 doublelhorses

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 01:28 PM

I ride a lot by myself. Progressed from a round pen to the pasture to outside the pasture riding by the fence, then short little rides away from the fence. Ride time is a big factor. Stay calm and relaxed and sing or talk to your horse. As they accept you as a leader they will go farther and farther. Build up your bond. Before you know it you will be the leader and your horse will go where you want.

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#7 Zephyr'sMom

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 01:39 PM

Rhythm beads are great, but by themselves they won't fix your problem. Implement some of the great suggestions above, and then if you think you still want rhythm beads (for the look, or for the bells to help YOU relax, or for the bells to just give you that one more edge in keeping his attention on you), then great, visit my website (below) for some ideas. You can make them yourself or buy them.

#8 Cheri Wolfe

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 08:17 PM

Well, I hate to be the only dissenting voice, but if you do just the opposite of what everyone here is recommending, you will find your horse getting 'brave' and ignoring things in just a fraction of the time.

First of all, when you let a horse stop and look at things and 're-assure' him by petting and praising him you are actually rewarding him for spooking and stopping. You are offering praise rest and complete relief for him doing exactly what you do not want. If he gets any better, it will be in spite of your actions and not because of them.

What you want is for a horse to pay attention to you and ignore all else. You want him to have more respect and thus more trust for you than his fears of the unknown or some perceived danger. It works.

I use 'leg yielding' exercises and practice them in an arena or enclosed area first. Hang a tarp or large piece of plastic over a fence. Then, practice going past it with your horse’s head facing AWAY from the tarp. Push him over toward the tarp with your leg so that his shoulders and ribs are the closest to it. Watch his ears. You know you are succeeding when his ‘inside ear’ is pointing back to you and he is more obedient to your leg than he is afraid of the tarp. Then, this is how to go past EVERYTHING he wants to look at. You never let him stop and you never let him look at anything and you never pet or reinforce his fears. YOU look forward (not down or at the object) and you ride like you expect him to ignore the frightful object.

Next, instead of slowing down or stopping, go faster. Keep him busy and keep him moving. Keep his feet moving. I like a long trot because it has worked best for me.

If you absolutely cannot make a horse go past something with its head turned away from the object, then just go back and forth a bunch of times as fast as you can. After it has gone well past the object, turn it around (toward the object) and go past again and turn it around again and go past it again. You may have to do this 20 times before the horse decides it is easier to just go past it without spooking. Go as fast as you can, but no slower than a trot. Make this a LOT OF WORK. When the horse is willing to go straight past, pull him um with his butt to the object and let him rest. Then, you may want to just walk him past, taking his head away, and go on at a walk.

Do this every time he spooks and I guarantee he will quit quicker than anything else you can do. I have used this method to train horses that were going to be CLEET certified as police mounts. I have used it for trail horses for about 40 years and used it for hunters and jumpers that were afraid of new jumps for many years before that. This is how all horses are trained to be police horses. You cannot de-sensitize a horse for everything you are going to encounter. But, you can teach them to respect you and your aids more than he fears anything else. You CAN teach him to ignore anything new or frightening.

#9 HorsingRound

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 09:41 PM

Good advice, Cheri. Having the horse trust in its rider is key to riding through and past "interesting" situations. This is why a horse might act differently with one rider than with another--one rider is more assertive than the other.

A green horse is going to depend upon its rider more to look for reassurance from its rider in unknown situations. The rider must have confidence and be the leader of the "herd."

Generally speaking, I think it's more dangerous to lead a horse through spooky situations than to stay mounted. As an example, I've been on trail rides on very ledgy, very narrow trails where people have led their horses across washouts with mixed results--one time the person was trampled when their horse jumped on top of them; another time the mule refused even being led; one time the person managed to not get jumped on top of, but it was scary watching it because he came very close to being jumped on. My feeling is that if a person could leap across a washout, then the horse can too!

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#10 cadence_rider

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 03:07 PM

My older mare can be a little nervous, too going out by herself.
Each time I take her out alone, I take her a little farther out each time. Also, I keep her moving. If I let her stop, and look at something she is spooking at.
It only goes from bad, to worst. And she spin around wanting to go back home. ha
But if I keep moving her forward, makes her braver. And she spook less and less, as we ride on.

Edited by cadence_rider, 11 May 2009 - 03:09 PM.

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#11 xoxLizziexox

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 08:56 PM

Take him out while leading him a few times. Once he's okay with that, put a saddle on him (while walking beside him!) Then after he's used to that, get on.
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#12 Ribellin

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 11:57 PM

Ok...so I need therapy! I've had Cheyenne 3 years. My first horse. I've been training Cheyenne... ( 6 year old Mustang I trained myself) for a long time to walk by herself. As in not part of the group. I do the funniest things. I tell her stories. I pretend she was a wild mustang roaming the prairies years ago and was being chased by Cowboys and Indians and she had to survive. It's the same as telling bed time stories to a child to me. The sound of my voice comforts her most of the time.

And I sing, too. Not well, but she doesn't care. And if she does spook at something, I do the opposite of from someone posted above.........I make her go look at the scary thing and walk her around it if possible. And I let her take her time. I don't make her hustle. We investigate things. Cattle were interesting! Now she just says Hi cow...how's it going?

These are just my thoughts.
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#13 cadence_rider

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 02:45 AM

Ribe - lol My Mom does the same thing with her Appaloosa. When he starts spooking on the trail, she'll either tell him stories, or sing to him. ha.
~Patience, Practice , timing & always
learn from your mistakes think like a HORSEman~
~The horse wasn't built to lead the earth he took natural
to the air. And every time he went aloft. He tried to leave me there~


I like my cowhorses Painted~
~Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but it gets so boring I go back to being me~
"Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right,
is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?"- Jane Austen

#14 Megs

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 03:56 PM

When your horse is calm on the trail and skittish alone it boils down to one thing - no trust in you. A friend of mine and I have a saying- When riding with other people be aware of who's riding your horse. Basically it means that your horse needs to be paying attention to you and looking to you as his leader at all times. Examples of other people "riding" your horse - the person you're riding with stops, and your horse stops. The person your riding with picks up a trot and your horse trots. Other person turns left and so does your horse. He's following the leader.....not listening to you to see if that's what you want him to do.

I agree with Cheri on training tips. I also believe that you need to go back and work on desensitizing and riding exercises in the arena to get him focused on you. Then start taking him out by himself-most likely your first rides may be fairly close to home, but as his confidence in you grows you can venture farther out.
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#15 Ribellin

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 05:03 PM

QUOTE (cadence_rider @ May 13 2009, 02:45 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Ribe - lol My Mom does the same thing with her Appaloosa. When he starts spooking on the trail, she'll either tell him stories, or sing to him. ha.



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#16 Crazy trail adventurer

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 05:17 PM

A strong shot of ACE or Tequilla will solve the problem iin a heartbeat.
Or, I don't know. I like (even now with my mellow horse) walking with him alot. It really seems to help tighten the bond. ( Of course this is after the big shot of Tequilla for each of us)
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#17 HorsingRound

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 02:19 PM

QUOTE (Crazy trail adventurer @ May 15 2009, 03:17 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
A strong shot of ACE or Tequilla will solve the problem iin a heartbeat.

...big shot of Tequilla for each of us)


Your horse drinks tequila?! ... and just how much tequila does it take to calm a horse?

Okay, moving on to the next question.... So you each get a big shot of tequila.

Who gets the ace??


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#18 hansonmkusa

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 07:19 PM

IMO training in the round pen will work for him to start listening to your voice commands, working with him on ground manners and keeping him interested in you, will go a long way in the saddle. Sounds like he needs miles in the saddle, but to get there he has to trust you.

Just remember to breath and relax - your horse will follow your cues. Stay focused on those ears as they will tell you alot about what they are thinking. Might want to ACE him up before a ride a few times so he will be relaxed when you take him out. You can get ACE from your Vet when needed.

Good Luck and keep us posted.

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#19 Cheri Wolfe

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 09:43 PM

Exactly how do you think trust in a rider is built?

Why does a horse completely trust one person and has no faith what-so-ever in another?

What on earth does a round pen have to do with it?

#20 flequus

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 10:56 PM

QUOTE (Cheri Wolfe @ May 16 2009, 10:43 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
What on earth does a round pen have to do with it?


or ace? happy0203.gif

Spot on advice as usual Cheri.


#21 Crazy trail adventurer

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Posted 17 May 2009 - 11:27 PM

Okay, first of all horsing...what's good for me is good for my pony. So, that means, for every two Tequilla shots he needs to take when he gets spooky, I get one.. questionicon.gif

Ace....well, for those who thought I was serious.. I wasn't. But, what a way to calm a scared horse. That's a whole new method called the "cheating trainer"...

Now about that round pen suggestion.. you know. I am a big advocate of lots of ground work. I was always taught if they don't respect and trust you from the ground they're not going to respect and trust you in a saddle. I've always started my horses on the ground in the round pens. But also, time alone with your pal, even if you're out hand walking him will just build more trust.

Good luck and if all else fails, including the tequilla, try Jaegermeister.
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We hit the trails hard with our ponies and our pup
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RIP my beloved Ice, laid to rest 5/28/10.

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Great Board Buddies we've played with: BigHeart (my BFF), Zmecky, JK Lucky, F2Cattle, HorsingAround, Zakima, Casey and the infamous Sisely.

#22 HorsingRound

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 12:02 AM

QUOTE (Crazy trail adventurer @ May 17 2009, 09:27 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Good luck and if all else fails, including the tequilla, try Jaegermeister.



Isn't Jaegermeister the stuff with opium in it?? (Was it Marl Karx who said "Opium is the religion of the masses?")

I'm up late grading student work (well, not right now, but plowing my way through with frequent breaks). I could use some tranquilizing Jaegermeister tonight!

I made margaritas from scratch last night (with fresh squeezed lemons and limes---yum!), which created a "calming effect" on my entire day today. Not sure my horses would like the lemon/lime flavor, but they sure enjoyed slices of watermelon today as the mercury topped 100.

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#23 Cheri Wolfe

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 07:32 AM

Boy, I don't even know where to start. I'll just ignore all of the crap and go straight to the round pen.

I wish I was in the round pen and 'training program' selling business. Modern clinicians have sold people on roundpens and convincd people that are so unqualified and so inept that they, too, can train a horse like a real trainer if they only put up and use a round pen. Then, these clinicians set up 'clubs', charge monthy fees, send out newsletters and DVDs all trying to tell these inept and unqualified people how to train horses in their new round pen. They know these people are very poor riders, so they keep them on the ground where they are less likely to get killed and their lack of skill can still let them at least 'inter-act' and 'play' with their horses. They tell them that they can play games and do round pen exercises for years and all of this will somehow eventually turn them into riders. The clinicians get rich, the horse owners end up selling their spoiled horses or sending them off to a real trainer or buy a trained horse like they needed in the first place.

In 50 years of training horses for a living, I have not found that round pens were necessary to get well trained, respectful horses. They are a convenience and they are for people. Horses don't seem to care one way or the other. Personally, I did not bother to put one up until I started to have a lot of trouble with arthritis and health issues and I found that a round pen helped ME by confining horses that I was having problems with out in the open. Having a round pen also taught me where many of the bad habits I had been encountering came from.

So, NO! You don't need a round pen to train a horse. You also don't need ground manners to have a horse broke spectacularly well under saddle. You don't need a 'relationship' or a 'friendship' with a horse to have a very respectful, trusting and obedient horse. Cowboys can rope a mount out of the remuda (one that they can't catch any other way), saddle and ride him absolutely anywhere they point his head and have a VERY WELL TRAINED horse under them all day. To a horse, ground work and riding are not even related beyond the specific things that you can do from the ground and their backs.

I have a ranch horse I bought from a neighbor cowboy last winter. (Actually I traded him 2 un-broke horses for him.) He is absolutely 'broke to death' under saddle. You can do anything on a ranch from carrying in newborn calves, doctor 2000# bulls by yourself, drag a cow into a trailer by yourself with him miles from the nearest corrals, rope and doctor big yearlings in a 10,000 acre pasture, carry or drag anything you might need and put any rider on him from 8 to 80 and expect him to go anywhere you point his head. But, it has taken me almost 6 months to be able to catch him without closing him in a corral and roping him. At the ranch he was used on, he was roped out of a remuda, hobbled, saddled and bridled and then ridden like any other well trained horse. He had not had one day of ground work done on him but you would have to drive a lot lot of miles to find a better broke horse under saddle. When you ride him, he NEVER spooks or shys, NEVER makes a single mistake.

You see, horses are creatures of habit. They know what they have been taught. Some trainers leave huge holes in a horse's training and still get anything done that they need to do. I see some of the nation's top reining and cutting trainers that never bother to teach a horse to stand still to get on. Every horse they mount is walking off. Does it make any difference? Well, not to them. They can step up on one that is bucking like a fool. When they sell him to a non-pro -- well someone has to come along and fill in some of the holes like I am doing now with the good ranch horse I traded for.

Sometimes it is a little difficult for the amateurs and back yard would-be trainers to grasp. But horses don't have a problem at all keeping things seperated and sorted out. And, they can have a real problem making one thing apply to another. Like they can be very proficient at ground work and ground games and have absolutely no respect for that same person when they climb on their back. I see this every day. People used to bring me horses and say something like "I just can't understand why he does this to me. He likes me and he follows me everywhere. He does all of his ground work so good. I just can't understand why he bucks me off. I have such a good relationship with him. Yada, yada, yada."

I just want to laugh and say "Where do get all this B--- Sh--? He does what you have taught him to do. He does what you have accepted. He really does not care if you live or die. He is NOT your best friend. Sure, horses learn to interact with people; some have a lot more 'personality' than others, but they still 'think' like horses and not like dogs or your best human friend.

So, the bottom line is this. A horse rides good on the trail because you have made him ride good on trails. He does not question anything you want from him because he has been trained to do absolutely everything you ask without question. You don't have to desensitize him to everyting he might encounter. You only have to teach him to accept anything and everything you ask him to do.

#24 azgrulla

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 01:47 PM

My horse TOnka is the 'head honcho' out back but out on the trail he can be and has been the biggest wimp. I do A LOT of talking to him and it helps a lot. We go on big rides and he does get a little nervous but I do a lot of talking and he calms down fast. It took months of 'talking' to get us where we are at. I am sure people look at us funny when they hear me talking to him but hey, it works. When we now encounter the horse-eating flapping baggy, I talk to him and he just looks at it now rather than try and waslk away. It happened the other day, except it was a piece of fabric on a mesquite bush....as soon as he froze, I talked to him and he waslked right up to it with stiff ears and when we got to it, and I told him it was ok, his ears dropped kinda like 'ok mom, it wasn't that bad'. Talk to your horse.....you will be amazed at how much they listen. Been doing this for a few years...now he is 'almost' fearless. He could care less about baggies, other horses and riders, etc. Rattlesnakes...that is a whole different story!

azgrulla
Lazy A Ranch and Spa

Featuring....

Tonka: Grulla dun QH gelding
Mr Potatoe Head: QH gelding
R.I.P. Ranger: English Springer Spaniel July 4th,1995-January 27th,2008
Bogey: Tri-colored Beagle spazzoid dog
Mulligan: Lab/Rottie sweetheart dog
Bailey: Lemon Beagle...such a luver
Church: Grey, evil cat
R.I.P.Junior: Grey, pain in the butt cat July,1997-March 10th,2008
R.I.P Back-up. Aussie-mix 1995-Feb 18, 2007
R.I.P. Snoop cat
R.I.P. Paramount's Reknown, Bay Morgan gelding

GO SUN DEVILS!!!!
GO BOILERMAKERS!!!!

#25 Crazy trail adventurer

Crazy trail adventurer

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 09:19 PM

I can see the point about getting out there and just getting him exposed.

I personally haven't spent even $ 20.00 on a trainer with a round pen. I've used my 30 years of experience. And I can say, that given my horses habits (which included bolting and spooking on the trail) when I got him, if I hadn't had a round pen to establish new habits, clear communication and a standard way of behaving I wouldn't be able to take him and do what I do with him now, which is alot.

I've added to this post previously as light conversation. I can say now to you, Shadow, figure out what's making your horse do what he does. Maybe, if it really is a serious problem, get a local trainer to help you. One thing for sure, there are many different techniques out there and because they are different, doesn't mean they are wrong. You just need to figure out what is going to work with your specific pony...

As for the downtalk, let me have my shot of Jeager and perhaps we can move this to the debate board. As that is where people have heated conversations.

By the way, Horsing,, that's what I heard but I never knew if there was any truth.

Az, I talk to Schnapps now. I used to sing but he started to try to bite me in the knee caps...


Sky high on life, and thigh wide on a draft..
We hit the trails hard with our ponies and our pup
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www.caltrailriders.com

RIP my beloved Ice, laid to rest 5/28/10.

RIP Tom's Wyat, laid to rest 8/25/10. He was only 14 y/o but we gave him the world
Great Board Buddies we've played with: BigHeart (my BFF), Zmecky, JK Lucky, F2Cattle, HorsingAround, Zakima, Casey and the infamous Sisely.