George Stubbs, Pumpkin with a Stable Lad


...if I have always worked honestly, my horse will carry me to the end of the world.

E.F. Seidler


In Hand Clinic with Howard Peet, 31st August 2010, Las Vegas


This clinic was held by handler extraordinaire, Howard Peet, with the assistance of Ladino GF and Barquillero LXIV.

You need to teach a horse to walk a straight line. This means you need to keep his shoulders up.

Howard starts everything with work on the longe. Get the horse to move forward, and the "whoa". Then teaching to stop, he pulls the horses in to face him, but doesn't allow them to walk up to him. Once the horse has stopped, then longe off again. Give the horse cues from the whip. The horse should learn: 'run on a circle', and 'come to me'. Make sure that you work on both sides, and remember that the horse is allowed to make mistakes. Bring the horse in to you one step, then stop him - so that he comes off the pressure and stops.

Then, teach them to cross over at the shoulders. So, let's say that the horse is facing you. Step on a 'circle' to the side - the horse moves his shoulders over to follow you. It is best if he crosses over with the front legs.

Give him lots of praise.

The horse should longe like a dressage horse - walk, trot and canter on command, and always relaxed.

Next, teach the horse to run out straight. You have the stop command established from the work on the longe. Use rails and fences to give you guidance in the beginning. The horse should learn to walk with his shoulder next to the handler.

Use the whip to encourage the horse, then whoa - just give a little jerk if he ignores the stop command. You need him to stop smartly so that you can transfer weight onto the hind quarters. When Howard trains, he wants the horses to stop via body language, rather than from the chain. Normally, an aid applied on the chain should be to move backwards. Howard likes to carry the whip on the inside. When we can walk on the rail and get 'whoa' when we want it, then we move on to training for overstride at the walk.

You want the horse to put his head down, relax and walk forward freely with good overstride. You can improve the overstride by doing right hand turns away from you and asking the horse to really stride out - this will make the horse step further.

Howard lets the horse get a bit ahead of him on the trot out. You might need to find a balance for each individual horse. If he keeps breaking into canter when trying to trot out in a straight line, try using a shorter rope and you will be able to get him to trot on the line. Then you can work on trotting on a longer line.

If you can trot out using 65% of the line at home, you will need about 55% of the line at the show.

Also, you should always do a good warm up at the show, to see what the horse is doing.

How you present yourself in front of the judge is also important. If the horse breaks into a canter, or doesn't work the way you want thim to, it doesn't matter. Just stay calm - you want to show that you love your horse. Remember that they are horses, not machines.

You also need to work on striking a pose. Teach the horse to pick up a shoulder when he walks towards you. If he needs to pick up a shoulder, ask him to walk straight to you so that he stands up straight, otherwise he will pop joints and have his legs looking crooked.

So, train that when the horse walks towards you, you move left or right to straighten him up in the shoulders.

Howard trains "whoa" from the right hind foot (when it is going onto the ground).

If the horse is a little high in the hip, then ask him for a slight spread between the hind legs (one leg in front of the other) - this will tend to even out the high hip, and makes the top line look a little bigger.

If a horse is not putting his weight onto the hind quarter, just step a bit to the side, and he will shift his weight a bit. If the horse cocks a foot, adjust his shoulder. You can also back him up.

In setting up a pose, you walk backwards. If the horse pops his shoulder to the right, then you walk to your right to correct it.

Howard also trains so that the horses prick their ears forwards. He walks towards the horses with his hand at chest level, palm facing towards the horse and applies (virtual) pressure - virtual 'pushing'. He might do this about 2000 times, until the horse learns that the hand in this position means to pay attention and put his ears forward.

To know what the hind end is really doing, you need a second set of eyes on the ground.

Halter work should set the horse up for his future career under saddle.

Howard says that you should praise the horse all day. It is all about confidence.

Howard walks in circles on the longe - this means that the horse is used to him moving around in different positions at the end of the longe line. Then, you are able to move around and shift on the end of the line to correct things when you are in the show ring. This means you will always get a good line.

How does he run? The trick is the take off - your take off. Make sure that you have the 'whoa' command and then just ask for the canter or trot. Then it doesn't matter if he gets ahead - you can stop him. Have a cue, and go from there.

If you give a cue to start at 3 o'clock, if it goes wrong, just correct it and start again.

Of on a triangle, overstride at the walk is enormously important for performance. The judges must see some great steps, and then you can win. Warm up at the walk, lower the horse's neck and ask him to reach.

For a sport horse in hand competition, you will be at the horse's head. Turn him right and lengthen the strides.

Howard kindly allowed me to spend ten minutes handling the very sweet (and extremely well trained) Ladino GF. This was a fabulous opportunity to get the 'feel' of a really professionally trained horse, and was very much appreciated.