Sunday, December 28, 2008

Use of Blocker Tie Ring

Hi everyone,

The Blocker Tie Ring first came to my attention about five years ago when I met its inventor, Ted Blocker. I got to know Ted and this tool very well during the time we both spent on Clinton Anderson's tours from 2003 to 2006. To my knowledge, it is still the only piece of gear Clinton sells (as the "Aussie Tie Ring") that he didn't design himself. As the Blocker Tie Ring 2 (an improved, second generation version) is now being advertised on my TV show, radio show, and eBlast, I want to be sure I fully address any questions regarding its use.

I recently received an email from a trainer who reported that a couple of his clients had purchased tie rings and their horses promptly got loose and into things they shouldn't. There was no mention of any training having been done prior to this, so I wrote a rather lengthy reply, which I am reproducing below for anyone who is interested. I'm sure there is more information available at

The tie ring is a training tool used to diminish the feeling of being trapped and claustrophobic so that a horse doesn't panic and pull back hard when tied. It is not intended for tying a horse and leaving the area.
The training goes like this: first, use the least drag (one pass over the tongue), then deliberately spook the horse and get him to pull some rope through. Usually, he will stop on his own before the rope pulls all the way through. If not, use a longer rope. His panic diminishes fairly quickly. You then lead him back to the starting point, pull the rope through and do it all again. He should pull back again, but stop sooner because he is learning that he isn't really tied solid. Do this a number of times and eventually he won't move his feet at all when you spook him. You can then go to the second setting, where the loose end is looped back over the tongue of the ring a second time. This makes the drag considerably stronger. It the horse tried to get loose out of boredom rather than panic, this would make it much more work. The third setting makes it very, very difficult to pull the rope through the ring. There is still some give, however.

Again, this is a training tool, not a set-and-forget way to tie your horse. It's important to give the horse lots of time standing tied so that he becomes comfortable with the idea and he has a positive association with being tied. In other words, it means a chance to rest. People who have problems with this tie ring usually haven't gone through this training process. They often have other problems, as well. They ask too little of their horses. These horses get too much high-energy feed and too little exercise, along with never being asked to stand tied for an hour or more at a time. Then, when the horse is tied, he has too much pent-up energy, a lingering worry about being trapped, and no positive past experience to draw upon.

As with any tool, this one must be used with an understanding of what it can and can't do, as well as good judgement on the part of the human.
Questions or comments are welcome.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Proactive vs reactive teaching

Hi everyone,

A proven way of influencing a horse's behavior is to reward desirable actions and punish undesirable actions. This is called operant conditioning. Note that this is all about consequences. Positive consequences for good behavior. Negative consequences for bad behavior. Notice also that this takes place entirely after the behavior has occurred.

Natural horsemanship uses operant conditioning but it also uses something else. Something that is proactive, that influences the behavior before it occurs. We describe it in different ways. We "set the horse up for success." We "make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult." We "make our idea become the horse's idea." This requires more mental engagement, planning, and commitment on the part of the trainer, but there are great rewards to be reaped.

One of the golden rules of natural horsemanship is to be as gentle as possible and as firm as necessary. Being proactive in training increases the opportunities to be gentle and decreases the need to be firm.


Monday, September 29, 2008

What is a natural horseman?

Random musings ...

Natural horsemanship begins with clearing one's mind of preconceptions and making a serious study of the nature of the horse as a unique animal species. It then requires a commitment to working with the horse's nature rather than against it. The specifics of the training methods don't matter as much as the underlying principles. A carpenter must understand wood. A mechanic must understand cars. A doctor must understand biology. Viewed this way, a natural horseman is simply an effective horseman, for any person who attempts to work with horses without understanding and respecting their nature is doomed to failure.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Wild Horse Issue

Okay, let's get some rational discussion going here on the wild horse "slaughter" being proposed by the BLM. What should they do instead? It does no good to mobilize public support against something when you have no workable alternative to offer in its place. Help!

Saturday, July 5, 2008


It occurred to me the other day that this blog might be a good way for me to answer a few horse-related questions. So, if something is on your mind, ask away!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Doug Preston

I'm a reader, or a bookworm as they used to say. I always have a novel and a few nonfiction books working. My buddy, Rick Swan, got me started on the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child thrillers. Turns out Doug Preston is an avid horseman - did a 1,000 mile ride retracing the route of Coronado searching for the seven cities of gold and earned a place in the Long Riders Guild. I emailed him and invited him to be on my radio show and he agreed. Great interview covering a wide range of topics, not just horses. Check it out online. We're going for a trail ride next time he comes out this way.

Haythorn Ranch

Spent a couple days at the Haythorn Ranch in Nebraska "helping" with the calf branding. Actually I wasn't much help but they kindly let me ride along with the cowboys and even rope and drag a few calves to the fire. We shot video for our TV show. The episode airs July 22nd and 27th on RFD-TV. It's a cool story, really. The history of the ranch goes back to 1876 in England and spans five generations of Haythorns. They still do things the old way there and have a fantastic horse breeding program. The cattle are kept around mostly to give the horses something to do. Nice folks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Remembering Orren Mixer

Hi Friends,

Orren Mixer passed away this week at 87. Many of you have been touched by him, even if you didn't know his name or have the priviledge of spending some time with him, as I did. Orren was a painter and a true horse lover. His painting of the "ideal" American Quarter Horse became an icon of this breed and is seen still on the AQHA web site and in AQHA advertising. Same with his paintings of American Paint Horses. And if you have seen the "Legends" series of books published by Western Horseman, you have seen his work on the covers of those books, too.

I met Orren only once, at the AQHA World Show, around 2000. AQHA hired Diana and me to do audio interviews with the new world champions and upload them to the AQHA web site, along with photos, to create virtually "live" coverage of the event. We did that for four of the world shows and met some great people. We also developed some opinions about what is wrong with showing, but that's another story. We loved being around the horses and the people and the excitement.

Orren had a booth in the trade show area and I couldn't believe he was just standing there, so accessible! I was totally familiar with his work and a big fan. I introduced myself and he put me completely at ease. I then realized I had a golden opportunity and I asked him for an interview. He said yes and we did it right there in his booth. I got him talking about his life and some of the famous paintings he did. We laughed and became friends. Years later, when I wanted to publish excerpts from some of my interviews in Horse Smarts, he graciously agreed. I'm going to rerun that original interview in my 5/17/08 show. And if you want to hear some short pieces, go to The Horse Show Minute section of my site and search on "mixer".

In a way, this is the end of an era. I'm so glad we that hour together back in 2000.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shooting TV spot with my horses

Today we had a fun day shooting a TV commercial for Ritchie Waterers at our house. All four of our horses got into the act. The challenge was to get them to drink on cue. Remember the old adage about leading a horse to water? Well, Diana proved it wrong. First, she taught each of them to eat a horse cookie out of the dry bowl. Then we added sweetened water and the horses really went after those cookies, just like they were bobbing for apples. Our youngest, Sarah, did best. She's such a ham! I was very proud of Diana and all of our horses. Keep your eyes open for the spot when our new season begins in May on RFD-TV.


Monday, March 17, 2008

On the loose in Durango

Hello from the living quarters of my horse trailer! Diana and I are camped outside Alamosa, Colorado and it's COLD! Luckily we have everything we need in our little home away from home.

We're heading back to Phoenix after a two-week expo road trip (Four States Ag Expo in Cortez and Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in Denver.) First one like this we've done. My music parter (Jay Casmirri, also the editor of our TV show) joined us so we could play some music. I love playing and singing, and people seem to think we do a pretty good job at it. We put Jay on a plane this morning.

Between the two expos, we spent a day in Durango shooting a TV segment on the Rochester Hotel and its connection to fifteen classic Westerns shot in the area. That should be on our show in the next few months. Durango is becoming one of our favorite places, but I do have a little problem. I spend too much money there! We keep finding things that are so cool and not available anywhere else. Last year it was a lambskin jacket for me. This time, we picked up the finished hat Melissa made for me on the TV show. Diana also got hers, a flat brim, flat crown gaucho in black. We decided to treat Jay to a custom hat, too, since he was giving up so much time to do the trip with us. Then I got a new winter coat, charcoal, mid-thigh length and very different. I needed it. Really! I was freezing. Oh, and Jay and I each bought a new guitar. This was all in one day, mind you. Ladies, you've got nothing on me in the shopping department!

On the way up to Denver, we stopped and shot a TV commerical in the snow for next holiday season. I wore my new hat and new coat. It felt really, really good. Know what I mean?

More later.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cox wins RTTH 2008

Hi everyone,
Still high from this weekend's Road to the Horse colt-starting competition in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The fans were just incredible. Returning champ, Chris Cox, went up against Ken McNabb, Tommy Garland, and the "mystery clinician," Mike Kevil. When all was said and done, Chris won it again. But don't think it was easy. I'll leave all the details for press releases and magazine articles that are surely being written even as I type this. There were some major turnarounds in both good and not-so-good ways, and that made for lots of excitement. Each of the guys did an outstanding job. Each of them got a standing ovation at one time or another. And of course, I learned something from each of them.
On a different note, we sold lots of copies of my new book and some people read it immediately. I got lots of positive feedback. Ken McNabb even told the whole audience that I'd kept him up half the night. That was a big endorsement.
I'm off to the airport. More later.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

From Nashville

Hi everyone,
Just a quick note today. I'm sitting in a Hampton Inn in Nashville finishing breakfast. In a couple hours I'll drive the 30 or so miles to Murfreesboro to setup for Road to the Horse. I'll also see my new book, Human to Horseman, for the first time today. I guess I'm more nervous about that than anything else.
Had a fun dinner last night with Diana, our daughter, Blair, and her boyfriend, Josh. Pizza and trivia at a local bar. Blair and Josh are in the law program at Vanderbilt. When did our kids get smarter than us?
Yesterday there were snow flurries here all day, which was very cool. Had to rush out immediately and buy a sweater. It's supposed to be nice for the weekend, though.
That's it for today. I'll write more after Road to the Horse. Maybe some juicy, insider news!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Road to the Horse

Two weeks from today I'll be in the arena at Road to the Horse, doing my thing: talking. I'll also be learning, watching these great trainers do what they do best. Tickets sold out several weeks ago, but you can still sign up for the live webcast. This could be the best one yet. Chris Cox, Ken McNabb, Tommy Garland, and a fourth competitor that is being kept a secret. Yes, I know who it is. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

I'll also get to see my new book for the first time. Although it's not officially coming out until September, the publisher is allowing me to sell advance copies at RTTH. They'll be shipped straight to my hotel room. We'll have a booth right outside the VIP room, same as last year, and Susan from my office will be manning it the whole weekend. I'll be in and out as time allows to meet folks and sign books.

People ask me if I get nervous out there in front of so many people. Yes and no. I'm more nervous about it right now than I will be when the time comes. That's just the way I am. Once I'm out there, I feel right at home. And folks are always so nice to me. I truly have the greatest job in the world.

Better go before I start blubbering...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Party at Monty's

Hi everyone,

I'm new to blogging so I'm not sure exactly what I'm supposed to do. I guess just share thoughts with my friends. Anyway, that's how I'm approaching this. Somebody please tell me if that's not right!

Diana and I spent last weekend in and around Solvang, California. It's an absolutely beautiful area north and a bit inland from Santa Barbara. Great horse area. We were invited to Monty and Pat Roberts's annual party at their home, Flag is Up Farm. Wow! Even in winter, it was stunning. Clinician Richard Winters was given the "Equitarian Award" and reining trainer Sandy Collier was given a lifetime achievement award. There was a band and great food. Frankly, I was talking to folks the whole time, so I hardly ate. We shot a TV segment with Dr. Miller the next day at the farm, up against a very cool stone building.

Now before anybody skewers me for socializing with Monty Roberts, let me say this. Monty has always been a real gentleman toward me and Diana. In fact, his whole family is just as nice as can be. Plus, he's an outstanding horseman who has contributed and is still contributing hugely to the revolution in horsemanship. I don't know what is true and isn't true in the whole family feud thing and I don't really care. I learn from Monty every time I talk to him or see him work. That's good enough for me.

We've traveled to that part of California three times in the past couple months. You may have seen the TV episode on the vaquero and another on the Thacher School. Those were shot in that area.

Hope you are all enjoying the TV show. We just love doing it. We just finished our third season of 13 original shows, so we've now done 39 episodes. Hard to believe. The last 13 will rerun, then we hit the ground running again with 13 more new ones. The show is on three times a week on RFD-TV and three different times each week on RFD-HD. Has anyone checked out the HD channel?

Better go. Errands to run.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Rick's new book

Whew! The new book is finally done and in the publisher's hands. It's very personal and has many behind-the-scenes stories. I also share much of what I've learned about handling, training, and caring for horses. I hope you like it!

Welcome to The Horse Show Blog!

Hi and welcome to my blog!
Let's talk. This is our chance to get to know one another.
Rick Lamb
The Horse Show