Ask Our Expert – Casey Deary
Casey Deary grew up in Texas riding horses, taking low-cost colts, training them and reselling them, allowing him to grow his training business. He has worked with many notable trainers, including Steve Archer, Clint Haverty, Shawn Flarida and Craig Schmersal, among others.
Deary won the National Reining Horse Association Futurity in 2012 on Americasnextgunmodel, finishing fourth in the event last year, and has made the finals at many major limited-age events. He has earned more than $834,000 in reining competition. He and his wife, Nicole, and their children live in Weatherford, Texas, where he coaches youth and amateur clients to successfully work with their horses, not only in competition, but every time they ride.
Q: How do you recommend selecting a trainer? What questions should I ask and what credentials should be expected?
A: Selecting a trainer to fit your needs will come down to location. The more you get to ride, the better you’re going to be when you get in the pen. Location has got to play a part in the selection process. And you need to pick somebody that can communicate with you the way you understand best.
For instance, I have five assistants that are all fairly good teachers. You have to go test-drive a few trainers. Take some lessons without commitment to see if your personalities match. Obviously we spend a lot of time with each other at horse shows, so it needs to be somebody who has the same morals and ideals so the person does not repulse you the whole time you’re around them!
Make sure the horse and trainer mesh well, too. All horses are different, so though I may not get along with a certain horse, somebody else may get along with it great. Take a lesson or two and if you like the trainer, then consider leaving your horse there for a month and see how they get along.
If you need to change trainers, the correct way is to always approach the trainer you’re currently with and mention the issues you’re having. Communication is the key to keeping all relationships happy. As many people as we have in the horse industry, it really is a small world, and there’s nothing more frustrating for me than to have someone else’s customer call me about their horse. I don’t have a relationship with that person nor do I know their horse.
After they’ve talked with their current trainer, if they think it’s something I could still help with, then that owner or non-pro has done his or her part as far as at least starting the communication process correctly.
I know a lot of people in our industry are horsemen; they’re not “people” people. They may get offended and they may get angry when you tell them you want to switch trainers. But you’re the person paying the bills and you need to make sure you’re getting your needs met. Our job as trainers is to take care of our customers. As long as my customer says, “I don’t feel like this is working the way I really think it should, and why is that?” it gives me an opportunity to say, “Well, this is what your horse is doing, or this is where I think you need work.”
A lot of times what your coach may be saying to you may not be for the reasons you think, since some trainers don’t communicate as well as they ought to. They may say, “Go trot your horse for 20 minutes,” when what they mean to say is, “I’m having you long-trot your horse for 20 minutes a day because your legs need to be stronger.” Keeping the communication open is crucial. I’d love to say as horse trainers it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re asking the questions that need to be asked, but I can guarantee most of the time that’s not the case.
I also believe a show record is important when picking a professional. I think it’s very hard to teach someone something that you don’t really understand. That doesn’t mean someone has to have won $100,000. It means that you need someone that has a very firm grasp on the association’s rulebook and on what the judge is looking for. You may have only won $2,000, but you have your National Reining Horse Association card and you understand all aspects of the rulebook.
A lot of what we see now are young, talented kids that can ride, but they don’t know all the penalties and they don’t know how to best show to multiple judges.
It would be equivalent to me coaching an NBA basketball team. I don’t know all the rules, I don’t know all the positions, and I certainly would struggle to put the ball in the hoop, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense for someone to pay me for my opinions on basketball.
Q: I’m working with my 4-year-old green Quarter Horse trying to improve her neck and head carriage. I’ve seen other riders use martingales and am considering doing the same. What’s your opinion on them and do you use them? If they’re just a crutch, how can I improve neck carriage without one?
A: I personally do not use a martingale. I don’t use a caveson, or a “mouth shutter,” either. The only thing I’ll occasionally use when we’re starting the lead change is the draw rein, just to help get through some of those spots, and a rope gag snaffle.
I think a lot of times martingales are adjusted incorrectly, and as with any equipment, if it’s not set up properly, it’s actually going to hurt your progress. Most of the time I see a martingale that is too short, so every time it’s pulled, it pulls down on the bridle rein, which is not the same feel that’s going to happen when you take off the martingale.
My goal is that anytime I do use a crutch at home, be it an illegal bridle, a draw rein or whatever, I always want to make sure that horse can relate it to legal equipment or proper use of the bridle reins.
That said, the way I used a martingale in the past is I made sure the rings reached all the way to the throatlatch. When I pulled, my hands were low. Then, the only time it really comes into effect is when that horse’s head is way up in the air. But you have to be careful with pulling their heads down because a lot of horses carry their heads up for a reason, such as the bit putting pressure on sharp teeth and causing pain, or a hurt neck. When we try to force their heads down, a lot of those horses will flip right over. I always make sure I discourage use of that type of gear without some serious, trained eyes as supervision.
Horse training is manipulating that horse into understanding the signals that we’re giving. For instance, one of my go-to crutches is my rope gag, and it’s a real stiff rope [see Essential Gear in the February 2015 issue of Western Horseman]. It has a lot of signal in it with very little bite. I make sure the horse understands what I’m asking in that rope gag. It’s also very easy to transition from that rope gag into a bridle because it gives the same feel.
Nowhere in the NRHA rulebook does it say the horse has to travel with its neck down. People ask me how I get the head down, and I say, “I buy them down.” When I look at a baby foal or watch a yearling travel, I want that horse to travel with its head down automatically. If it travels with the neck up in the air, it’s more than likely going to travel that way when I go to show.
Instead of teaching it to travel with the head down, through the training process, I teach it to pick its back up. When a horse’s back comes up, its neck goes down naturally—it’s just the way it’s wired. I never ever want to pull a horse’s head down. Any time you pull one down you’re actually trapping the front feet on the ground.
Anything I do with a bridle involves setting a barrier with my hand and that bridle, and pushing my horse forward until the withers come up. When the withers come up, the neck will go down. Once the withers come up and the neck goes down, then I release and that horse learns to travel with its back up in the soft position.
People have this idea that they’re supposed to seesaw the face until the neck goes down. That doesn’t translate to one hand in the bridle at all. I’m big on not seesawing, even in a snaffle bit. I ride my 2-year-olds in a snaffle bridle until October or November, and some of my 3-year-olds are still in a snaffle. It has to relate to pressure and release. Even in a snaffle bridle, I’m going to set my hands and hold that horse until its back comes up into my hands. The horse may push into me, but it has to push into me to get the back to come up, at least in the beginning. Once I get the back up, then I can ask the horse to be soft and more submissive with the face and break at the poll.