Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dear Allison: Stopping Anxiety

Dear Allison,
It’s no secret, I can’t stop my horse. I may have finally conquered some of the problem with a recent surgery. I have Crohns disease and some of my guts had welded themselves to each other. It was very painful so I was guarded when trying to stop. Anyway, when I rundown, I get tense, don’t like to go that fast then slam into the dirt I guess. My horse knows this, he runs just fine but hits on the front end because he can and I can’t fix it. I am about to start riding again and will work on trying to stay relaxed, but how to deal with that tension and stiffness and then also know when and how to get after the horse for not making any effort and hitting on his front end? How do you retrain your mind and body to stay relaxed?
Thanks, Salina Bailey

Dear Salina,
As much as we would all like to have the perfect circumstances, the best horses, and the ability we dream of, the majority of performance horse lovers fall somewhere in the in-between. Even without a physical limitation, such as yours, apprehension and struggle can come with maneuvers, especially stopping. A front endy, jackhammer stop will rock anyone’s body. One of the things you will never be able to do is force yourself to relax. Just the idea of it is contradictory.

There are 3 components to your situation. The first is the mental block. You can talk yourself into being brave and trying it even though it may have hurt in the past, but the reality is, that fear and tension will come right back with the first bone-jarring stop. I believe that in order to feel confident, one must first feel competent. I believe that if you better address your horse’s training and stop, and your philosophy on the stop, you will improve the situation, thereby improving your confidence.

Next is the issue of your horse hitting his front end in the stop. You need to go back to basics with him and soften his stop at the walk, trot and lope. Often when a horse hits his front end it has a lot to do with resistance in his shoulders and his face. In effect, he is coming more to a halt at speed, than what he should be doing which is going from forward motion to backward motion. That is the essence of the type of stop you are trying to achieve. I find that most people do not finish their stop completely. You need to go back to saying the word “whoa” as you draw on him in your stop, be sure to continue your pull and body motion until you feel him come back into a backup, then release. As you increase your speed, you will have a horse that is hunting the release that comes with the draw back, and this will help keep his shoulders up and free and his feet moving through the stop. There is a video on my youtube channel that illustrates this concept.

Finally, there is your body position in the stop. I have seen little success with trying to tell a rider how to sit, or what to do with their body. It often results in mechanical and inconsistent results. I like to encourage people not to think of what they should or shouldn’t do with their body, but to instead develop a feel for what their horse is doing with his body when he stops properly and to both mimic and compliment that task. I think that the notion of a reining stop, leaning back with legs thrust forward with weight in the stirrups causes a lot of non pros issues. The people running and stopping like that in the magazines, have a lot of softness and feel in their body that gets lost in translation. When most people mimic that body position, it results in a rigid body. Leaning back is not proper, nor is rigidity in your legs. That same braciness in the rider’s body is what contributes to the stiffness in the horse’s stop. Think of what you want your horse to do. If you want him to be soft and broken in his back and light and free with his shoulders, so should you be. You will not be leaning back, but because you are behind the drive point of your horse, your shoulders will be behind your hip333s. When you initiate the stop, allow your horses body to first begin the stop and think of yourself as going to the ground with him. Not that your body is forcing him to stop. Draw your stomach in and round your back and tuck your pelvis, just as he is. Keep your shoulders loose and free, even as you draw on him. Instead of reaching for your stirrups, think of opening your knees as you put subtle weight into your stirrups. Continue this position into the draw back. The way I am able to process things is not to make a check list, but more to have a vision of what I want. As I ask my horse to stop, there is a mental picture of what I want my horse’s body to be like and my body seeks that. You can practice this position at the draw back instead of always working on the stop at speed, take ahold of your horse with this picture in mind and draw him back. It will help solidify the motion both in your mind and muscle memory.

There is no race to perfection. Build up your muscles, your understanding of the maneuver and your confidence before you go running down the pen like you are in the finals of the NRHA Futurity. It is no different than training your horse. Small, consistent, clear steps with complete understanding are key to a confident, capable and content horse and rider.
Happy Stopping,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dear Allison: Fencing

Dear Allison,
I don’t understand Fencing !!! How do you do it correctly and WHAT is the Purpose?
Sebrina Holstrom - Bellingham, WA

Great question Sebrina,
In a nutshell, “Fencing” is the practice of perfecting your rundown. At reining or cowhorse shows you will see riders lined up on each long end of the arena running their horses from one end to the other. Sometimes they will stop their horses, much like they will when they are showing, and other times, they will let their horses go all the way to the fence. This is where the term “fencing” comes from. It may seem hard to believe, but one of the most important things to the quality of your horse’s sliding stop, is how well he runs. Even if your horse has a lot of “whoa” to him, he may not stop as well as he could because he is not running straight or true. In a reining stop, it is ideal to have the stride before your horse stops, be the peak of speed in the rundown. If your horse is running true in this way, he is best prepared for a free and easy stop.

It is in the nature of horses to anticipate. In their rundowns they will either get strong and want to run too soon, or want to slow down as they anticipate the stop. Fencing is a great way to teach your horse to run gradually from one fence to the other in a relaxed manner. In addition, it is hard for a horse to perform a square sliding stop if he is running crooked or leaning. Fencing allows you to redirect or address the crooked rundown.

I think there is a lot of misconception that fencing is used to run the horse into the fence, teaching them to stop better. Again, fencing is used to make your horse WANT to run to the fence, straight and true each time. One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is punishing your horse at the destination (fence) and making it a place they do not want to be. Remembering the reason and the desired outcome are key to perfecting a maneuver.

Thanks for your question and I look forward to more!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Every once in a while you are gifted. Enjoy it and take advantage of it. It isn't really luck if you were there to receive it. Think of it as a reward for putting yourself out there. The same with bad luck, it happens to everyone and it isn't personal. When you fall off, dust yourself off and get back on your horse. Allison Trimble ~

Monday, October 1, 2012

Training to the Point of Contact

Allison Trimble talks about training to the point of contact with your horse.

The Back Up: Getting Straight

Allison Trimble gives a pointer on how to correct a crooked back up.

Proper Bridling

Allison Trimble shows you how to properly bridle your horse with a browband and split ear headstall.


RISK: You have to be willing to take a few calculated risks. No one has ever become famous or successful by playing it safe. Don't be afraid to hang it out there and you may be surprised to find you are greater that you ever thought you could be. Allison Trimble ~


Practice is everything. If you are not prepared when you walk in the pen, magic is not going to happen. Your commitment and time spent preparing at home as is important as the show day. Allison Trimble ~


Trust: Your relationship with your horse is a partnership. Like any marriage you need trust, compassion and understanding. Both you and your horse have to trust each other and work together to make a run successful. Allison Trimble ~


Perspective: Life is like the cow you draw, there are good days, ones you wish you could forget and ones you will never forget. Every time you walk in the pen, remember that you are lucky and thankful to be there, regardless of the score. Allison Trimble