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Practical Horsemanship
By Kelli Paulson, Mid States Ranch Horses, LLC
Practical horsemanship skills contribute to the development of a safe, versatile and enjoyable mount for the whole family.
A description of a safe, versatile and enjoyable horse may be as follows.
A safe horse will respect you on the ground, have good manners, is easy to saddle and bridle, won’t pull back when tied, doesn’t buck, is difficult to spook and doesn’t run off with you even when frightened.
An enjoyable horse is easy to catch, loads, goes where you want, does what you ask with out resistance and is a pleasure to be around.
A versatile horse is able to compete in most of the classes at shows (local play days or breed shows), cattle working competitions, trail ride anywhere (alone or in a group) and negotiate any obstacle. A versatile horse can work and play – clearing brush, weekend branding parties, helping friends or neighbors roundup cattle, or pack camping gear, hunting or fencing supplies for the days adventures. They can be an asset in your life as you get your days work done faster and easier then if you were a foot and alone.
This list is just the beginning of what horses can be. Create a list of what you want with your horse and work towards that goal. Just like you would create a list of things to do at home or at work, make a list for your riding. Ride with a purpose! This list can also be helpful when purchasing your next horse or when selecting a trainer to work with you and your horse.
Have you heard the phrase “connecting the reins to the feet”? Working towards this will get you well on your way to achieving your list. Success with many of the items on your list will have to do with “connecting the reins to the feet”. This means that you can move the horse’s feet and put them where you want them by using the lead rope or the reins and your legs.
When you ask most people where the reins connect to the horse they will say to the mouth. This is true physically but in reality they need to connect to the feet. Wreaks happen when the head and neck are turned and the feet are not following. Imagine you are driving a car at night, you turn the steering wheel, the headlights turn but the wheels do not. You can see where you want to go but you are not going there and now you can’t see where you are going to end up.
Though the concept of connecting the reins to the feet can’t be fully explained in a short article, we will give you a few exercises to get you started.
Set up a simple course or select a path in your mind and ride it accurately. Keep your horse within one foot of your intended line of travel. This will help your horse pay attention to the reins and your legs. When riding have a goal in mind and a plan to get there. Don’t let your horse wander or direct you.
A fun exercise is to drag something such as a tire or log in a winding path in an arena then ride the path accurately on you horse. Pretend if you step off the path you will fall down the mountain or into the quick sand. This can be a fun, friendly competition for groups. For added challenge you can drag the object from your horse to make the course.
Pick a target such as a twig or dirt clod and place your horse’s foot on it by lifting with your reins and using your legs in time with his feet. As your horse walks pay attention to when his feet leave the ground. Direct the placement of his foot as it leaves the ground. You can’t direct the foot when there is no movement and his weight is on it.
When the reins are connected to his feet your horse will be safer, more versatile and enjoyable.

Check the web site manners classes this spring. Contact Kelli Paulson, Mid States Ranch Horses, LLC, training, camps, clinics, lessons and sales. or 402-427-5515