~~ Industry Tips ~
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Subject:  BITS -- They are more about hands than mouths.

First I want to start out by telling you something I was told by a cutting horse trainer that I worked for when I was a kid.  She said that bits to a horseman, were like  tools to a carpenter.  You need different tools for different parts of the job. You can't just have a hammer and expect to drive in screws or level a board with it.  Each tool has a job and you first have to learn what each tool does and how to use it properly.  If you use a hammer to try tighten a screw you are going to end up with a mess. The same is true with bits.  You have to LEARN what each bit does and the effects that it is supposed to have when used correctly.   So make sure you find out the mechanics of the different types of bits and how they function and what result you should have with it. 

Secondly, you have to give the horse time to learn about the bit too.  Let's say you are moving your horse out of a ring snaffle and into a short shanked snaffle with a little curb strap.  Do you think you should just put it on and expect the horse to understand what the pressure under his chin is supposed to mean? NO.  You have to teach the horse what the correct response is supposed to be when he feels that new pressure under his chin.  You can't just throw a new bit on because your friend says that it will give you "lift" or "bend".  You have to take a few rides to show the horse what the desired response is from the new movements it is feeling from the bit.  Yes, the bit is designed to create a certain response like "lift" or "bend".  And it will get that effect easier than other bits not made for that purpose, but it still takes time for the horse to learn it.  So instead of throwing a new bit on and making a run and then saying.. "well that didn't work", try spending a few days letting the horse understand the response you want from that bit.

And now that I've stood on my soapbox about how to use bits as a HORSEMAN, and not just a dude with a horse and a mission to make a fast run, I would like to let you in on something I've learned about myself and about bits. And that is that Bits are more about peoples hands than they are about the horses mouth.  I've used that statement a LOT and what I mean is that every person rides a little different and every person has a different "feel" to their hands.  Just the same as every horse has a little different mouth.  And what I've learned is that certain bits work for me and the way that I use my hands.  I've had horses that I've had extreme success with in a certain bit and someone else tries to run that horse in that bit and it does NOT work.  Our hands work differently.  Just because a certain bit is popular and works for a lot of people doesn't mean it will work for you.  You need to find out which bits work for you and your hands and never let go of those bits.  Chances are that they will work for most horses you will own or ride (assuming you take the time to teach each horse what you expect with that bit).  So don't ever sell the horses bit just because you sold the horse. You might be getting rid of YOUR success as a rider. 

Kim Smith

Subject:  Learn to listen to what your horse is telling you.

I am an observer.  I people watch and I LOVE to animal watch.  We have a 20 acre field behind our place that has a breeding band of bucking bulls and cows in it. I sit, sometimes for what seems like hours, and watch their behavior.  It doesn't take long to see which ones are the loners, which ones run the show and which ones just want to be a part of the group.  Although I haven't had a chance to see horses in the wild yet, I am sure we would see the same behavior in their band as well.

Even though animals don't speak our language, they do communicate with us.  Horse owners need to become better at understanding what their horses are "telling" them with their actions.  Horses don't wake up in the morning and decide to hit the second barrel, balk at the entry gate, or not run home as fast as their owner would like them to. 99% of the time there is a reason your horse is not doing what you are asking.  I have listed just a few of the reasons I see quite often below.

  • Body soreness
  • Poor fitting equipment (most often saddles)
  • Poor shoeing which causes lameness and/or body soreness
  • Incorrect headgear for horse and rider combination
  • Lack of rider education on correct riding skills for that horse
  • Overuse or lack of other activities besides barrel racing

So many times I see people schooling their horses for bad behavior or not performing up to their expectations without analyzing the cause of the issue.  If we all took a little more time to understand what our horses are communicating to us, we would all have more success and more fun - especially our four legged partners.

Traci Glazier

Subject:  Life Lessons

My grandfather who passed away this month taught me a lot of very important life lessons, a couple of which I'd like to share. As a kid, I didn't take failure, or what I thought was failure very well.  But whenever I hit a barrel he would always tell me "If you aren't hitting one once in a while, you aren't turning tight enough to win". And that has always stuck in my head.  Looking around I see a lot of people who could use that piece of wisdom.  He may not have been a barrel racer, and may not have studied the technique like we do (maybe too much) these days; but what he meant was that we should keep our chins up and stay positive. Thinking back I've hit two pretty costly barrels in my life. One was to make the College National Finals Rodeo for the second time.  The other was to probably win a horse trailer. And neither time did I hang my head much, or get angry with my horse or myself. I was proud that I had come that close.  And I remember each time a friend asking me "Why aren't you mad?".  The answer was because I knew in both cases I had tried my best and my horses had worked honestly and given their best, and there is no reason to be mad for that.  I think a lot of people out there could take a lesson from my grandfather.  But now, as an adult and a parent I see a much more important lesson in his words than just their literal reason; and that is that we as parents (or even just peers) should always give our children an uplifting word when they don't do as well as they had hoped for.  They haven't "lost" anything.  They tried hard and did their best and sometimes things don't turn out the way they hoped, but they should keep their chins up and look forward to the next run.  We need to fill our children, our friends, and our fellow competitors with encouragement, not criticism. So many of us have become so over analytical of every step we make in every run, that we sometimes want to point out every mistake we see in our children's' or our friends' runs. But next time you are getting ready to point out a mistake in our children, grandchildren, or ever our friends, let's do something else.  Let's give a word of encouragement and let them know that we don't have to focus on a bad outcome, but instead focus on how hard we tried, because THAT too should be rewarded. 

Kim Smith