Category Archives: Horse Training

Training Your Horse – How to Use Trot Rails

Is your routine getting stale? You can jazz it up by using trot rails. The rails themselves do not have to be fancy painted rails but they should be correctly placed to get the maximum training value.

Think safety first – Square rails are safer as they do not move if the horse happens to hit them. The lowest level of a caveletti is another good option. Round rails are the norm but they do move when they get hit. If possible find some squared rails or use caveletti.

Distances between poles – Placing random poles is a good way to vary your routine. Place poles at various locations around your riding area and practice trotting and cantering over the middle of each pole. If you want to place poles in a row they should be placed at a certain distances.

For the: Walk – place poles at 3 feet apart. Trot – place poles at 4 to 4 1/2 feet apart. Canter – place poles at 9 feet apart.

These distances are average and depend on the size of the horse, experience of the rider and exercise you want to accomplish. For example, ponies would have shorter strides and therefore would have shorter distances. Larger horses would have longer strides and therefore would require longer distances between the poles.

***HINT – When I ride I use 9 feet between poles so that I can walk, trot and canter without having to move the poles during my ride!

*** HINT – You can tell if the poles are placed properly when the horse goes through the poles he steps in the middle of the poles.

Exercises using poles
1. Setting poles on a circle. This is a great exercise. On a 20 m circle (large diameter circle) put a pole at the twelve, three, six, and 9 o’clock positions. While riding your circle aim and meet the middle of each pole.

*** HINT – Use your outside leg to prevent the horse from drifting out on the circle. This exercise can be made more difficult by making the circle smaller.

2. Fan three to five rails out like the spokes on a wheel. From center to center of each pole should measure 4 1/2 feet if the poles are to be used at the trot. When setting up make sure that your poles always point to the same center point. These can be spokes on a 20 m circle, 15 or 10 m circle. Making the diameter smaller makes the exercise more difficult.

*** HINT – Use your outside leg and rein to prevent the horse from drifting out on the circle.

3. Set 2 poles 60 ft. apart. This is a great exercise to count the number of strides between the poles. Then you can adjust the number of strides by lengthening or shortening the strides. Haphazardly placing poles in a row can spell disaster for some horses, so take some time and place poles carefully and practice your lines and circles. You will accomplish more in a shorter period of time and reach your goals faster.

Laura May is the owner of Thistle Ridge Stables in Ottawa, On. Canada which is host to the Rising Star Series of Horse Shows. She specializes in the development and training of young horses. Emphasis on the development of equestrians through systematic training techniques More information can be found by contacting me at thistleridge @ (just remove the spaces). Also visit for more horsey related topics!

Originally posted 2012-06-18 08:06:59.

Developing Your Medium and Extended Trot Out in the Field

Trotting up hills is a great way to teach your horse to open up his shoulders, and will help him understand what he is supposed to do.

Medium and extended trot both have to be mastered if you want to go up the levels in dressage and eventing. And it is easier than you think. Some horses can naturally lengthen their stride, so if yours is one of them, then when you are preparing to ride your first Novice test, medium trot is required for the first time at novice, you should not have much trouble. Others may need a bit more help, but you should find that most horses will happily oblige once they understand what you are asking them to do. It is important to really understand what the trot is and how your horse should be moving in order to improve and lengthen his stride.

What is the trot?

The trot is a two-time pace where the horse moves his legs in diagonal pairs, plus there is a moment of suspension when all four legs are off the ground. Ideally, and essentially at the higher levels, the horse should work in good, uphill balance with his hind legs stepping well under his body. He should be supple through his top-line and seeking a rein contact. If your horse’s trot does not feel up to scratch, do not panic. Here are some common trot problems we encounter, with some simple solutions, too. I find they work well for my horses, so give them a go.

You can do this whilst hacking, you don’t even need an arena!

If you have access to a long, not- too-steep hill, then use it to your advantage. Take a light seat, but do not give the rein away, and do not allow your horse to fall onto the forehand. You should find your horse naturally reaches with his stride more than he would on flat ground, so encourage him. Or if you have a friend who has a horse with an established medium trot, trot up the hill beside them and watch your horse really open up!

Not only does the hill work develop your horses technical ability in the trot, but it also really aids his fitness work. Improved stamina and strength, especially in the hind legs, is a brilliant pay-off from this exercise and such hill work is more typically found in the eventing world where horses need exceptional stamina for the long cross-country sections of the competition. Dressage and jumping horses, although using more intense, explosive energy in a smaller time frame, rather than the endurance found in an event horse, can really benefit from this increase in fitness from the hills. The fitter the horse is, the easier he will be able to progress on and develop the new exercises.

Now it is time to get out there and put it in to practise!

Tom Davison of Davison Equestrian has been immersed in equestrian sports all his life. His father, a top Olympic Dressage rider has been a huge influence on Tom’s very successful show jumping and coaching career. Having trained with some of the best from Franke Sloothaak and Billy Twomey, he has a wealth of knowledge and experience that he departs to his pupils in a way that gets the best out of both horse and rider. For more information please visit

Originally posted 2012-06-12 13:57:21.

Reining 101 – Andrea Fappani

Reining 101 with Andrea Fappani
Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope (a slow, relaxed version of the horse gait more commonly known worldwide as the canter) and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits. Reining is often described as a Western form of dressage riding, as it requires the horse to be responsive and in tune with its rider, whose aids should not be easily seen, and judges the horse on its ability to perform a set pattern of movements.

Originally posted 2012-05-30 07:57:27.

Picking Up A Horse’s Hoof

The idea of picking up a horse’s hooves can intimidate some owners since a well-placed horse kick would really hurt! Such caution is good, but in reality if you pick up a horse’s hoof properly you provide him with no leverage or ability to kick you. This is a situation where a person’s worst fears can cause him to imagine an incident that is highly unlikely to occur with careful handling.
Here’s how to safely pick up a horse’s hoof:

Starting with the front hoof, approach your horse diagonally from his front so that he clearly knows you are there – you don’t want to surprise him. Place yourself even with his shoulder and make sure to face his rear; you will both be facing opposite directions during the hoof picking process.
Making sure that your feet aren’t too close to the horse’s hoof, start running the hand parallel to him down his shoulder and along the length of his leg, finally stopping just above his ankle. Gently grasp the ankle portion and click (or otherwise verbally cue him) to ask him to raise his leg. If he’s well trained, that small cue will be more than enough and he’ll do just what you requested. You’re now free to begin picking his hoof.
If your horse is being a bit stubborn or hasn’t learned how to pick up his legs yet try leaning into his shoulder as you run your hand down the back of his cannon bone. You can also gently squeeze/pinch the tendons to further cue him to what you would like. As you perform these physical cues make sure you provide a verbal one also (I make a clicking sound) so the horse later associates your sound with the requested response. Increase the weight you push against his shoulder until he finally lifts his leg as requested.

When picking a horse’s hoof you want to remove all debris from the hoof clefts as well as the rim and frog. Be careful around the frog because it can sometimes be a bit sensitive, particularly if the horse has thrush.

Once you have finished cleaning the front hoof carefully guide it back to the floor; you don’t want to allow the horse to slam it, potentially hitting your foot in the process. Praise your horse and pat him on the front shoulder a bit so he understands that you are pleased with his cooperation, then run your hand along his back to his rear leg. Place yourself in the same position as you did with his front leg and do the process over again.
There is a slight difference between lifting a rear foot and front foot, even though your basic positioning and actions are nearly identical. When you lift your horse’s rear foot he will probably give a little jerk that you might misinterpret as a kick. This is a common reflex reaction among horses and nothing for you to worry about.
Secondly, when you raise your horse’s rear leg you’ll want to step into him a bit so that your hip is underneath his leg. Rest his leg on your thigh, grab his hoof and gently flex it upwards. By doing this you lend him some support and more importantly the position of his leg and his flexed hoof will prevent him from being able to kick you.
Clean the hoof, lower it cautiously as you did the first and praise him. Congratulations – you’re halfway done! The opposite side will be done exactly the same way, but try to return to his front and start the opposite side rather than move around his rear. It’s bad practice to approach or circle all but the most trusted horses via the rear in such close quarters since a horse would be within range to strike.
When lifting any hoof try to make sure your horse is properly squared (balanced evenly on all four legs) so that when you lift one hoof he can easily balance on his remaining three. At no time should the horse actually lean his weight on you! Even when you rest his rear leg on your thigh you’re not allowing him to use you as a crutch.

Once you have picked your horse’s hooves a few times it will probably become very simple and take less than 5 minutes to clear all hooves. Most trained horses will raise their hoof for you the moment they feel your leg run down their leg.
It is a very good idea to control your horse’s head while you are picking his hooves. This can be done by attaching his halter to crossties or asking a partner hold your horse’s head. By controlling his head you ensure your horse can’t move away from you while you’re trying to pick his hooves, or worse… turn around and take a bite at your rear!


Jeffrey Rolo, owner of AlphaHorse and an experienced horse trainer and breeder, is the author of the above article.  You will find many other informational articles dealing with horse training and care as well as games and other horse fun on his website:

Originally posted 2012-05-18 07:51:53.

Courtney King-Dye :Riders4helmets

Remember it’s not just you but everyone you know and love on the horse’s back with you.

US Olympian Courtney King Dye opens the 2nd Riders4Helmets Helmet Safety Symposium. You can follow the riders4helmets campaign on facebook at, twitter and Courtney suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a riding accident in March 2010. Courtney was not wearing a helmet at the time of her accident and has since shown her support for helmets via the riders4helmets campaign.

The link to the video:

Please go and see Courtney’s interview. Remember it’s not just you but everyone you know and love on the horse’s back with you.

Originally posted 2012-05-12 07:50:24.

Horse Owner Survival: Horse Behavior

This video briefly discusses basic horse behavior. It is part of the Horse Owner Survival video series.The series, developed by Kathy Anderson at the University of Nebraska, covers many important facts about horses that every horse owner should know. Topics covered include horse behavior, catching and leading a horse, daily grooming routine, care and maintenance, and emergency first aid.

For more horse information, visit

Originally posted 2012-04-22 07:43:42.