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Question from Neil: I have a 2-year-old that is real spur sensitive, and I am working on body control right now – neck shoulders etc., but he only associates the spur with going faster and will tend to brace against especially my left leg. He is a nice colt , nice loper, yet it has been a lot of work to try and get him to drive into the bit with out getting chargey. He has a melt in the ground stop, real cowy. Its like I need to deaden him up to the spurs a bit. Any advise?

First of all let’s address the advantage of spurs and the primary cause of success or failure.
When to use spurs: First off, I can’t remember using a spur a lot on a two year old. Put yourself in the horse’s place – if you are an older horse and you know right from wrong, you know the way you’re expected to respond. If you deny the rider that respect, then you could expect the possibility of be spurred. However, if you’re a young horse, such as a two-year-old, which is comparable to a four-year-old child, you don’t know the rules. So a big or painful reprimand – or even reprimands that are sort of painful and stacked one on top of the next – if you don’t have knowledge, the only thing you have to respond with is instinct. Since horses are flight animals, their instinct is to go ahead.

Any time you start pushing him a ways out of his comfort zone, understand that he’s a flight animal, so he’ll go ahead. The harder you kick and spur, the more ahead he’s going to go, but it’s going to be a blind ahead motion, not a collected forward motion.

First, the horse has to be taught how to respond to the leg properly. Some take longer than others. It will take as long as it takes – one week, five weeks, however long, but that is part of the joy of making a good horse a good horse.

Of course we do need spurs. The effective way we deal with a disrespectful horse, as far as contemporary riding goes, is to have a spur as an enforcer. But you need to start somewhere besides using the spur, so you can save it for when you need it.

I suggest bumping a horse like this a lot with your calves, instead of spurs – with your toe up and your heel down – and if you have to occasionally use some spur then I would, but then again you want to spend some time – you want to take it apart. Back him up to the wall/fence and bump him with your calves, what I call “boot tops”, while moving your reins until he becomes soft and light.

Once he understands that when you start bumping with your boot tops and moving the snaffle bit back and forth, he needs to drop off that snaffle and lower and soften his neck, then you can start to put it into motion. If you try to do it all at once, it’ll be too much. How much motion to start? One or two steps are pretty darn good – you’ve got the job done.

You always have to remember, we’re not trying to create a maneuver that we can compliment him for; we are trying to create a thought pattern. In other words, we want to reward him for the way he thinks, not just hold out for all the big things. Of course we will reward the big things he does too, but your goal is to make him think correctly. In order for your horse to think right, you have to think right. You should to go back to fundamentals.

I suggest trying not to use spurring for now. When you do, definitely don’t stick the horse with the spur. Put the spur under the horses’ tummy with your toe up and out, your ankle bent as far as you can so you’re using the calf of your leg on the horse first, your boot tops.

How to use spurs (rolling vs. sticking):
If you don’t get the response you want, then use your spurs. With your heels down, spurs down, barely touch the rib cage, or barrel, of the horse. Then begin to push your toe down, rolling the rowels upward. The rowels make a series of wrinkles in the skin because you have pressure against his barrel with your foot, leg, and spur. The rowel will roll across those wrinkles, and you should get a response. All of those signals are delivered in a sequence, called “pre-signals”. In other words, the first signal means the second one is coming, so on and so forth.

Aside from it being kinder to the horse, why should you roll and not poke with the spurs? If you use a lot of ankle – in other words, ankle, ankle, ankle, roll, roll, roll – that keeps a horse from learning to hold his breathe. You don’t want to poke a horse with spurs because he’ll begin to brace for that painful jolt. He’ll hold his breath and tense up, the same as you would respond. His neck will become stiff, solid, and rigid. When his neck becomes stiff, you’ll lose your ability to slow the front legs down, and he’ll go where he wants to. He’ll run off. This should all makes sense. It makes really, really good sense in theory. Theory to me is the same as basic fundamentals, and fundamentals are what it’s all about.

Can a horse be more sensitive to spurs on one side more than another?
As far as one side being more durable than the other, horses are not. At least I haven’t experienced one. I have had some that in certain stages would turn better one way than the other; usually the problem in the neck and shoulder area. But as far as just responding more to one spur than the other, it’s probably more of a rider error. In other words, you’re either using or are more aggressive with one leg or spur more than the other, or your spurs could be adjusted, one high and one low.

It is true that when you teach a horse to do something one way, you sure can’t take for granted he’ll just “know it” the other way. So of course you have to work both sides, but look at what you’re doing too. Also like with anything else make sure there isn’t a physical irritation or injury that makes the horse touchier on one side than the other. Hope this helps!

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Hi folks… welcome to my blog, and I have some interesting news for you!

I just returned from the American Cowboy’s Team Roping Association’s (ACTRA) National Finals in Reno, Nevada, in which I competed and I placed 2nd in one of the rounds, which was my claim to fame. I saw a lot of very interesting people there, there is a spot for everybody to rope. They have a number system that allows everyone to compete on level footing and that’s a plus! ACTRA pulls a lot of people that are not originally horse people, and certainly not big-time ropers, but they practice hard, and they seem to buy some sort of a resemblance to a rope horse, actually a few of them are nice horses.
There are as many as 1250 – 1300 teams that actually rope in one day in one particular roping class. That’s a lot of players, so this is a real important part of our western industry. I totally enjoyed myself, I had a lot of fun, I met a lot really, really interesting people from all types of businesses and walks of life. I saw people that I haven’t seen for many, many years, I wondered where they had been, and they showed up with a rope in their hand, and some of them roped darn good too. I think everybody there had a great time, it was really well-organized, and I never waited in line. When you run that many horses and people through an event and you don’t have any wrecks, I have to compliment Mike Sweeney and the guys, like Clyde Sanders and Jim Waggoner and all the guys from the ACTRA club that put this together.

The thing I noticed a lot of was unbroke horses; some of them go out there in a pattern, that is they’re patterned to go in a position so the rider can rope. But if a steer happens to move irregularly, they’re dead meat because they don’t have broke horses and certainly a good part of them don’t have any mouth on them. I felt like I wanted to help everybody all the time – of course I didn’t and couldn’t. Our Five Easy Pieces program that I teach in Cowhorse U and I also in the single DVD we sell, proved itself to be totally invaluable at this roping finals.

As I unloaded, I know that horses sometimes get a little hopped up on you in altitude, and coming from sea level to 5,000 feet, the horse that I took was amped up more than I’ve ever seen her before! I just started galloping and this mare didn’t even want to gallop right, and I’m thinking I’m probably going to have a little trouble here, don’t know what to do about it, but I need to resolve it somehow. So I thought well gosh Les, you teach people what to do when these sort of things happen, why don’t you do it yourself! So that’s what I did! I stopped and went off by myself where nobody was around and started working this mare on the Five Easy Pieces. I started working her in circles, doing flexions, bending her and walking her to the left until she softened and her neck got soft, bend her around, and then the to the right. I did everything both ways, then I worked her shoulders and then I worked the rib cage, the whole horse, made the hip come up to the eye. As I went along, folks, I found a lot of broken pieces. I found a lot of connections that didn’t exist that this mare needed to have fixed in order to perform. Well I got to thinking; I don’t usually maintain her like I should. I kind of been taking her for granted. There’s certain things that she did when I was roping on her at home everyday that I was trying to fix as they were happening, that is, within the maneuver. Duh… I teach, you don’t fix things in the maneuver, you fix the problem. You go back to the fundamentals and you fix the reason that you have a problem. So the light bulb came on, or as they say in Australia, the penny dropped!
Well, as I went through this mare’s body looking for irregularities or non-connections as far as her body control went I found a lot of leaks and problems! As I searched from the front of the horse to the back, I addressed each one and I worked my way through it, one side of the horse then the other. I worked on it for 45 minutes or an hour, and then I went off and galloped her. Boy, she galloped better than she had in a long, long time. Just the way she moved, she was soft, stayed in the bridle, neck down, Relaxed! So I did the whole process again, still not perfect, but much better, she was operable, I could put her body where I wanted to, when I wanted to, but with a little more effort than I really wanted to use doing it.

Then it comes time to go roping. Well, I backed that mare in a box, and usually in the box she doesn’t do anything bad, but she kind of turns to stone, she’s tense in the box. That mare was mellow as she could be. She was perfect, lots of time she turns her head away from the chute, I don’t like that much, but it’s hard to get her to look back toward the chute. But oh my gosh! That day she was just perfect, she couldn’t have been any better. A rodeo roper would have loved her. She ran the cattle, she was just perfect on the corners and I had people come up to me and say boy that mare sure stops hard, nobody has ever said that before, but of course Les Vogt wasn’t doing what he teaches, I wasn’t practicing what I preach! However, I was so thrilled that the program that we use on our performance horses, mostly on reined cow horses and reiners and all different kinds of horses, was just as valuable for a roper! I just hadn’t really experienced the value of it in a high level competition mode, but I have now. So, for what it’s worth, and it’s worth a lot. Hey folks, this stuff works really good! I’m impressed with my own program, and that’s fun! It sure keeps things from being boring around here! We had nothing but fun at the ACTRA Finals, it was a great contest!

I’m getting ready for my one and only clinic this fall, in Ada, Oklahoma, November 20-22, so I’m kind of on vacation, I’m playing! So this week in Paso Robles, California, there is a cutting horse contest, there I will go to and I will study cattle. I am going to visit some of my friends who are expert cutters, and as they bring in fresh cattle, while they are settling the herd, I’m going to get with these people and learn what I can to pick the good cattle and ear mark the bad cattle in your mind, to make a list of them and then try to remember the list so I can watch those cattle get cut by the cutters, see if I’m right or wrong. In today’s herd work or cutting horse world that determines the outcome in many cases as to what your destiny is going to be as a cutter. So I guess I better learn it. So I’ll spend some time in Paso Robles at the cutting. And this weekend we are having a roping horse sale too so if anybody sees me raise my hand there, please hold it down, because I don’t need to buy any more horses.
After that we go into the month of November, which is the following week, we have the PBR – Professional Bull Riders Finals, that’s in Las Vegas, not sure if I get to go, but sure going to try and do everything of course.

Then there is another cutting in Bakersfield, California, it’s a just a regional club cutting, but I think I will take Turbo to it and see if what I learned at Paso Robles is going to work. They have a ranch horse cutting, I need to season my horse a little more, and get sharper as far as the herd work goes. That’s going to be another good practice session, and that will be on November 7. Then on November 14-15 we have our Vaquero Show, where everybody brings old time bits and chaps, spurs, riatas and all the old guys sit around a little fire and talk about how good it used to be in the old days. It’s nice because you get to see a lot of people, it’s very traditional, it’s in Santa Ynez and it’s very, very interesting.
Then of course November 20-22, I go to Ada, Oklahoma, and then comes the highlight. For Thanksgiving I think I will visit some friends in Fallon, Nevada, then the day after I’m going to see Cheech & Chong in Reno, Nevada! Oh boy! Never have!

Anyway, life is good!

Thanks for reading…..

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If I were to build my perfect training arena, it would be about 300 to 325 feet across and perfectly round, except there would be a 100-foot flat wall inserted into it. It would look like tire on your car when the air is let out. That flat wall would be 100 feet. The distance from the middle of the flat wall across the arena would be 300 feet.
arenasketch2
That means if you put the crosshairs (like in a telescopic rife) the second line would be longer than 300 feet. Behind the flat wall there would be a 100-foot-wide by 200-foot-long square pen – adjacent to the arena. The whole arena, including the square pen, would have a 6-foot high solid wall.
The square pen would be used for working cattle. The cattle are going to work differently against a flat wall than they do on a curved wall. The 300-foot pen leaves so much room for a horse and cattle to “go somewhere”, as we say.
Small 100-120-foot round pens are ok, but you can’t get up and get going. The cattle tend to sour a little more quickly because you are in close proximity to them a lot. You can turn cattle easier in a small pen; however, you have to be careful not to over rotate.

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