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An Issue of Trust

Teaching Your Horse to Lie Down with Ken McNabb and 2021 Road to the Horse Colt Dandy

In 2021 I competed at Road to the Horse, which was actually held in Texas instead of its typical location in Lexington, Kentucky due to the Covid outbreak. For the competition, I chose a 6666 Ranch red roan colt, which I later named Dandy. After the 2021 competition, I then got the opportunity to purchase Dandy and have continued his training at home. This month I wanted to share an exercise for consideration in your colt starting program at home.  

The lesson I will be teaching him is to lie down; an exercise I have named “an issue of trust” because that is how I see it. In order for your horse to willingly lie down at your feet he must decide to trust you with his life because once he is flat on the ground, he has given up his instinctual ability to flee from any danger. It is now your responsibility to protect him. In a partnership between a horse and rider, NOTHING is more important than TRUST. This is an exercise I do not do on every colt, however, I feel it adds to the relationship when I do work it and I have chosen to do it on Dandy because I find him a very special individual.

   STEP 1. I loop a 12’ lead rope around Dandy’s neck and tie it like a rein. (My preference of lead is the Weaver Leather Silvertip® Tree Line Lead ½” x 12’ and Silvertip® Big Sky Rope Halter). I will now stand on his left side and pull back on the halter rein to ask him to back up, releasing the rein when Dandy steps back and flexes at the poll at the same time. Once he is doing this consistently then we are ready for step two. NOTE: For leg support & protection on his front legs, I use Prodigy by Weaver Leather and my preference of lead is the Weaver Leather Silvertip® Tree Line Lead ½” x 12’ and Silvertip® Big Sky Rope Halter. A halter and lead with a quality feel are important to this exercise.

  STEP 2.  I like to use a soft padded leather single-foot hobble connected to a cotton lead rope to lift Dandy’s left front leg. I pull his leg up tight against himself then wrap the lead rope around the saddle horn to hold his leg in place. (DO NOT TIE THE LEG UP). NOTE: It helps to use a back cinch and breast collar to help hold the saddle in place.

  STEP 3. Next, I ask Dandy to back up softly and place his left knee on the ground. When his knee touches the ground, I release the pressure on the rein, but continue to hold the leg rope snugly. (DO NOT PULL THE HORSE OVER WITH THE LEG ROPE). When Dandy tries to get up, I calmly ask him to back again. This works best if the pressure is applied before he is totally upright. Continue this part of the exercise until he lays over on his side. Stay 3½- 4 feet away from his side through the laying down the process, so that he does not hit you on his way down.  

  STEP 4. As soon as Dandy lies down, I release the pressure on the leg rope from the horn. That will allow him to stand up using all 4 legs, the way God intended! (Horses fold 1 leg up naturally and lie down on 3, but rise up on all 4). I do not lie a horse down more than three times per training session. I also do not ride a horse up from the ground that is younger than the age of 5, as I believe it is too hard on their body while they are growing. NOTE: It is important to work this exercise in deep soft ground.

Dandy is an incredible colt with a great mind. He took to this lesson very well; the same way that he has done everything I ask of him. I cannot wait to check in with you again soon, for another update and training session with the 6666 Ranch colts that I brought home with me after the 2021 Road to the Horse Competition.

Until Next Time May God Bless the Trails You Ride, Ken McNabb

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