Over the years I have come to gain a real appreciation for the Vaquero methods of training a horse. They not only spent hours in the saddle every day, but went to great lengths to transition a horse to a finished, in-the-bridle mount. Their methods to eventually get a horse in a high port spade-type bit were admirable, but not very practical for most horse owners who are, by necessity, “weekend-warriors.”
I have been fortunate to have learned a practical method for advancing a horse to a spade bit in much less time than the Vaquero method. My program methodology also allows you to stop the advancement anywhere in the process and stay with a lesser bit should you so desire.
Many people question the use of a high port spade bit, believing it to be cruel, hard on a horse’s mouth, and only to be used on a horse that is hard to stop. This is a gross misconception. A snaffle bit is great for training, but the fact is, horses hate having their mouths tugged. When conditioned correctly, they enjoy packing a spade bit, due to the lightness that it creates when the rider has feel and light hands. I call it the power steering affect that your horse will appreciate.
Sequence of Bits in our Program
- O Ring Snaffle
- Transition Bit (T-Bit)
- High Port Swivel Cheek
- High Port Solid Cheek
- Spade Variety
Our methods to condition horses to accept these bits incorporate bitting up exercises and recommended equipment specific for each of these bits.
We introduce neck reining in Level 4 of our program. We continue the same reining exercises through level 9 as we transition the bits as shown above. However, if your desire is to end your training at Level 3, you can still transition bits and continue working on reining exercises.
We teach neck reining by first making sure the horse will follow his nose. We want the horse to eventually tip his nose as soon as we lay the rein on his neck. We also get the horse to relate the rein and leg pressure. The timing of the neck and leg pressure is important. Most people error to the side of using to much leg pressure when they figure out the horse will move off of their leg. The exercises we teach for neck reining are:
- Flex Side to Side
- Bending Exercise
- Walking in Circles
- Fence Work, Arena Wall
- Fence Work, Arena Corner
- Fence Work, Round Pen
- Pushing into Turn with Rein and Leg
- Star Pattern
- Using Obstacles to Turn
The real rage these days is to ride with a solid rein. Solid rein popularity is due simply to the fact that it is easier than handling split reins. There is an advantage to using split reins, as you have the ability to feather the reins to tip your horse’s nose. It’s not “wrong” to use a solid rein, but we like to teach you the advantages of mastering the use of split reins. The exercises we teach will help you become a much better horseman or horsewoman and are listed below.
Split Rein Exercises
- Rein Management Using a Chair
- Rein Management Two Hand Snaffle
- Rein Management One Hand Snaffle
- Rein Management Two Hand T-Bit
- Rein Management One Hand T-Bit
- Rein Management One Hand Sweetwater Bit
Picture yourself on your horse that handles like power steering, responds when you lay the rein on his neck – and oh by the way – you can now ride with one hand.