What is Good Scoring for a Heel Horse?
In a perfect world, when the gates bang, the horse is watching the steer. And if there’s no heel barrier, I’m going to let the steer make the initial move, and then I’m going to get where I need to be. I want him watching the steer, breaking flat and being behind the bridle so I can move him wherever I need to in the arena. Flat, smooth and off my hand is the primary goal when leaving the box. This sets up good position from the first stride.
Loose Rein Drill
• Objective: At home, I try to make sure my horses can score on a loose rein. I work on making sure they aren’t jumping at the gates. My black horse is on go, but the more I can score at home with a loose rein when the gate opens, the better he can score in competition. I want him to pay attention to the steer when the gates open, not just leave, running blind. I want him watching the steer from the first stride.
• How it works: I let my horses stand in the corner on a loose rein, and at first, when the gate bangs, they’ll take off. I let them go a few steps, then I ease them into a stop. I let them think about it and let them settle their feet, then I use my hand and feet to back them up. Eventually, they figure it out.
• Special cases: On an older horse, I cannot teach an old dog new tricks. So instead of stopping and backing up, I’ll do this drill and just turn around and go back to the box. But a broke horse with a lot of potential, I’ll get them into the bridle and back them up.