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BACKING WITH LEVI MOUW
Horse training may be what Levi Mouw, 21, was born to do. He was born and raised in Sioux Center, IA. He is the son of Steve and Peg Mouw... Levi is filling his cup up with knowledge, applying it correctly and becoming a trainer already highly recommended by those who know him…
What follows is ‘insider’ information we’d like to share about Levi Mouw…
I am the sixth generation of horsemen in my family. Dad has been racing and training standardbred race horses professionally since 1971, when he joined my grandpa who had been training for years. Dad had also trained quarter horses and saddle horses all his life. As for my-self, I have been in the horse barn all my life--Dad brought me to the barn 3 days after I was born and never brought me back or so it would seem.
Levi couldn’t help having the desire to train—it seemed to be his destiny… Let’s find out more!
I’ve been starting and training horses, I would say professionally, since I was 16; but had started and trained my own stock before the idea ever dawned on me that riding horses for other people could be a business. I realize 21 years old is just a baby to a lot of folks but I’ve dedicated my entire life to gaining knowledge and techniques for training horses. I have been much more fortunate than most. I grew up surrounded by men I would consider great horsemen. Whenever I had trouble with a renegade stud colt or fixing bad habits of the rope horses, I always had excellent people around to bounce ideas off of and learn from. While studying videos of the legends I have always believed there is something to be learned from everyone.
I am not set on one training method because every horse is unique. I start with a foundation that is the same but as I get to know their strengths and weaknesses, I change the way I approach each one of them. There is more than one way to train a horse so I study everybody-I am a student of all horsemen-I take what I like from each and leave out what I don’t. I don’t believe you can ever master the horse-there is always more to learn.
“The only difference between the good trainers and the great trainers is timing”.
I have a fairly simple method for ‘backing’ that has always worked for me and doesn’t leave a sour impression. All horse training is about pressure and release--the only difference between the good trainers and the great trainers is timing. The pressure is the motivation and the release is where a horse learns. So if you yank on a horse’s mouth to back up and never release they will never learn that backing or breaking at the poll is the answer.
Initially, I start out doing ground work—where I put light pressure on the rope so the noseband of the halter pulls back on the nose and I push on the horse’s chest until he backs. As they get the picture I phase out pushing on the chest. Usually the horse can make the mental transition from ground to the saddle—but if they cannot and walk right through my signal, then I will walk them straight at a gate or wall until they almost touch it with their nose; with the constant pressure on the reins usually they will figure out ‘backing’ releases pressure. If not I will add a little more pressure by rocking side to side in the saddle or tapping the shoulders with the heel of my boot. Sometimes this may take a while, so I’ll just rest my hands on the swells of my saddle, so that way the pressure stays constant and I am not using any unnecessary energy. As soon as I feel the slightest movement backwards, be it a step or they just rock back on their hind feet, I release, showing them that any backward movement is a good movement.
Timing of the release is more important than anything because if a horse backs and you release when he stops, then he thinks that if he backs a little you will let go as soon as he stops. Whereas if you release while he is moving, he will think that he has to move back as long as there is pressure; when he has backed far enough you will reward him with the release.
A lot of people tend to overlook backing, thinking that is not the most important thing they have to worry about. However, if you were going to buy a car and they told you the reverse gear didn’t work, you wouldn’t want to buy that car. In addition, backing has such a vital role in getting a horse to stop, which is important to most of us--nobody wants a horse that won’t stop.
Courtesy of Levi Mouw
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