• May 2008 • 49 Notice that Jai Jai continues to brace, his weight drops even more onto hid forehand.
Any weight you feel on a line or in your rein is always a degree of forehandedness – even the weight most people refer to as “contact”. Sometimes bracing is from stubbornness or a poor attitude, and some horses are a little more defiant than others.
However, I would say that 90 per cent of the problem is man made.
It all starts from the halter breaking and continues into riding.
It is the give and release, as well as repetition, that horses learn through.
If the horse has time to learn the proper way with the correct guidance while staying relaxed and willing right from the start, everything from then on will be done with a little try on the horse’s part.
That goes a long way in my books.
JOSH NICHOL: The major reason for a brace is a lack of communication between the horse and the rider, as the horse does not understand what the rider is asking.
This is usually where a brace starts.
Many people actually teach their horses to brace because the horse did not understand the question and we quickly overface the horse, putting them into situations that are they are not comfortable with, without giving them a base of support.
Since I feel that it is the rider’s job, as the leader, to train the horse in a way the horse understands and take the time that horse needs, I believe that most “problem horses” are actually problem riders.
Issues like stubbornness, belligerence and unwillingness all stem from a rider’s inability to communicate to the horse.
This does not negate the fact that there are some tough-minded horses out there that are sometimes more then the individual can work with.
WHR: What are some of the common ways that you see people trying to deal with bracing? JESSE THOMSON: The most common method is to pull harder or kick harder, neither of which is likely to help.
JOSH NICHOL: It is common to see riders attempting to fix a brace in their horse without going back to redefine the definition of their reins, which is where the majority of bracing problems start.
Instead, people use many creative methods in order to make the horse lighten to their requests.
Bits and tie-downs, along with many other man-made gadgets, have been created to 50 • Let your horse tell you when it’s time to step it up. ~ Jesse Thompson The problem is not that the horse does not have the ability to put their body into the position that we are looking for; it is that we do not understand how to make what we are looking for clear to the horse.
We must be very clear in defining our aids to the mind of the horse and allow them to find and then display what we have asked of them.
It is important to understand that the horse is not openly defying us: 95 per cent of the time a brace is a demonstration of a horse’s confusion or mental uncertainty about the definition of your request, not a defiance to your question.
WHR: What should the rider do in order to help a horse that is bracing, learn not to brace? JESSE THOMSON: With a horse that gets bracy in the backup, don’t pull on both reins, but instead just use one rein and break him loose in the front end, then release and pull on the other rein until you get some backwards movement.
Start small, half-step or maybe even just the thought of backwards, but ensure you release to show your reward – then start again.
Same with a horse that is bracing in the body – start small.
Don’t ask for a side-pass all the way across the pen the first time.
Let your horse tell you when it’s time to step it up.
Keep in mind that in most cases, bracing is human related.
Therefore, we need to ride with better knowledge of our cues (leg placement, balance, etc.) and better timing of when to give, and especially when to release.
JOSH NICHOL: Usually a brace does not start on the horse’s back but begins on the ground.
Therefore, the best way to deal with it is also often to start on the ground and look to earn leadership there.
A horse defines leadership as one’s ability to direct the horse’s mind (thoughts) as well as the Continued on page 52 make the horse’s body do what the rider would like.
Some people get bigger (add pressure) to make the horse obey, and some people back off.
I find this to be a matter of one’s interpretation of the horse.
WHR: What do you feel are some common mistakes that people make in trying to deal with bracing? JESSE THOMSON: As I mentioned, many people just get stronger in what they’re asking, which doesn’t address the cause of the problem.
For example, backing-up is where I see a lot of horses get bracy.
People pull with both reins and the horse gets locked up, and the rider pulls harder – and the horse stays locked up.
Riders may also not understand how important it is to release when the bracy horse tries to give even a little, or they may not understand how important the timing of that release is.
We often expect too much at once or ask for too much, too soon, which can make a horse brace even more.
JOSH NICHOL: I think that the biggest mistake made in attempting to fix a brace is trying to force the horse’s body into a position or make the horse do what you want. May 2008 •
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