Next Level with Kollin VonAhn

Releasing the Pressure 

The last four to five years, I’ve gotten to hang out a lot with NCHA Hall-of-Fame trainer TJ Good, and I’ve got to be around some great horsemen with him. It’s changed me—and the whole roping industry has changed from what we thought was good to actual, really broke horses. And one thing I’ve learned is that I want my horses always looking for a release. The only way to do that is by relaxing and teaching them to trust me. 

SS Platinum Cat and Kollin Vonahn winning the Texas best futurity in April 2023. Shelby Lynn photo

For me, I’m more or less training my horses how to react to a situation rather than training them into a set pattern. Everybody trains a horse to go through the steps, but I’d rather train them to know to relax and rely on me—no matter how wild, crazy or pressure-filled the situation gets. When we get in a spot that gets confusing, I want my horses looking to me for guidance. 
I make sure, if I do correct my horse for something or adjust his position, as soon as the pressure is released, he’s calm. That way if things get upsetting or crazy, and they look for the answer or get confused, they know to relax and slow down. Training horses used to feel more military, more like bootcamp: they’d do these maneuvers, they’d watch the cow. Now, they’re bred to be so good, it’s more our job to stay out of the way and not overtrain something that gets them excited or fearful of getting in trouble. If we have to school them on something, it’s so they relax, come back and get gentle again. 

Putting It to Practice
I ride with my feet a lot, and I put a lot of leg pressure on my horses through the run. But, with that said, I hardly ever kick a horse. I will hold my feet on them a lot. That’s where I can hold my feet on a horse to shape their body, and so, as I shape their body and do anything with my feet, when he relaxes, I turn my feet loose, giving my horse his release. I can keep my mouth pressure, and they’ll be looking for relief from my feet and get softer and suppler through my hands. 
When I release my feet, they cue to that in a hurry and they never get afraid of your feet. All of my horses know I won’t raise my leg up and spur their belly. That keeps them from tensing up and not holding their breath. I’m not afraid to keep my feet on there until they get loose and relaxed and their head comes come back to me. But when I release, I want them to know they’ve done a good job.

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