Category Archives: Horseback Riding

Canter – Your Horse’s Problem or Yours?

Canter Sequence
Canter Sequence

Canter has a definite left and right leg sequence. If your horse is on the wrong leg his legs are moving in right canter sequence on the left reign or left canter sequence on the right reign. A correct sequence is:

  1. outside hind
  2. inside hind and outside fore together
  3. inside fore

Your horse stretches his inside fore further forward than the outside to help him stay balanced (As you would put out a hand to steady yourself) which is why he needs to strike off correctly.

Take a look at these common mistakes – and why they won’t help your horse.

  1. Turning your horse’s head or leaning your body to the inside.Imagine all your weight was on one side of your body on a corner. You’d put out your other leg to try to stay upright, right? That’s exactly what he’ll do. To stay balanced he’ll throw his weight onto his outside front leg and make it his leading leg.
  2. Using your outside leg harder. If your outside leg is banging on your horse’s side he’ll bend away from it. If he’s bent to the outside he’ll take that lead.
  3. Turning a tight circle in the hope you’ll ‘encourage’ your horse to take the correct leg will only unbalance him. If he feels he’s falling to the inside he’ll throw his weight to the outside and take the wrong lead.

Most riders know the aids to canter but how you give them can have a huge effect on your transitions. Sitting trot is a key part of any canter transition. Do you avoid sitting for too long so you don’t upset your horse? Think again! What you actually need to do is sit for longer so he has time to relax.

Practice sitting trot. As you sit relax every muscle in your seat. Forget about how you look. If you’re a bit unstable initially it’s actually less unsettling for your horse than sitting and asking for canter in one stride.

Your horse must bend to the inside to strike off correctly but to do that he needs to bend through his body not from his head. Keep your contact even in both hands and use your body to bend him. He’ll mirror everything you do with your body with his. Turn your shoulders and hips to the inside and he’ll do the same.

Your outside leg moves back to tell your horse which leg to start cantering with (his outside hind). A firm nudge from your inside leg tells him when to go. Once in canter remember to move your outside leg back into position so you stay square and balanced in the saddle or you’ll unintentionally be asking him to move his quarters in.

Practice asking for canter on a 20m circle. Stay in sitting trot. Canter half a circle and trot half. Concentrate on the transitions. Ride 10 on each reign before you finish. Stay calm. One wrong lead isn’t a disaster. Settle your trot and ask again.

Remember your horse can only do what you ask. If he gets the wrong leg stop and think for a second. Are you sure it’s his fault? Or is he just doing what he’s told?

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Originally posted 2013-04-10 17:39:54.

Basic Necessities for Safe, Enjoyable Trail Riding

Trail riding offers us the opportunity to see the world in a unique way, to enjoy the outdoors while enjoying the greatest sport on earth – horseback riding. Not only is it good for people to get out, see beautiful scenery, it is also great for the horse to have a change of pace. Of all the equestrian activities, trail riding is probably what most horses would choose to do if they were allowed to make a choice on what work they do. Most horses seem to enjoy going down the trail.

Basic necessities for safe, enjoyable trail riding include the following:

A capable horse

A horse that is trained well enough to be safe riding out on the trail – knows basic commands and is obedient under stress; doesn’t panic easily

The horse is fit enough for the work asked of him – you’ve done some basic riding and conditioning prior to going out on the trail

Tack that fits properly – it doesn’t matter if it’s English, western, endurance – just so it fits your horse well, does not interfere with him being able to move freely, and fits you as a rider also so that you, too, are comfortable. If you use a breast collar or crupper, make sure it’s fitted properly so that it doesn’t rub on the horse’s shoulders or between his legs. Use a saddle pad that provides enough cushion to protect the horse’s back but not one so thick and heavy that it creates a lot of heat under the saddle. Look through some good trail riding handbooks and tack catalogs for ideas and recommendations. A good rule to remember is to never, ever try out brand new tack or equipment on a long ride.

Tack and equipment that is safe. Don’t have a back cinch that hangs way down several inches below the horse’s belly where a branch or weeds may get caught in it, or worse, the horse’s foot when navigating a steep downhill. Don’t use a tie-down if you can avoid it – a horse that lies down in water can easily drown by not being able to get up when wearing a tie-down. These are just plain dangerous for the trail. Use the least amount of “stuff” possible – avoid “gadgets” – leave the draw reins for arena work, the headsets, etc.

Shoes or other protective foot gear is important. Don’t take a barefoot horse out on a rocky trail if he is not used to it. It takes a long time for stone bruises to heal, and your horse could easily suffer an abscess that will put him out of commission for weeks.

A capable rider

If you’re brand new to riding, don’t set out on the trail alone. Get some experience in the arena until you’re comfortable that you can easily control your horse, that you will not panic if your horse gets a little spooky, and know your horse well enough to know how he reacts under new circumstances. It’s never a good idea to go out alone on the trail anyway. Try to always go with a friend, for safety’s sake. Generally it’s not the natural obstacles or critters out there that you have to worry about; more often, it’s the two-legged monsters that you have to watch out for.

Be fit to ride – ride enough before you go on a trail ride so that you are fit enough to ride for a couple hours without feeling exhausted, sore, uncomfortable. Know your own limitations and don’t over exert yourself. Trail riding is supposed to be fun, not wear you out and make you miserable. Hurting is no fun.

Wear safe, comfortable clothing. Like new tack, don’t wear brand new boots or shoes, or tight jeans first time out. Murphy’s luck will have it – you’ll have to walk a nice long distance for some reason (horse throws a shoe, whatever) and you’ll end up with blisters on your feet.

Safety helmets are highly recommended. Not only do they protect your head if you should fall off, but for trail riding they are wonderful – you can skim under tree branches and not get scratched or have to worry about scraping your head. It’s just good common sense to wear a safety helmet.

Take drinking water for the ride. As with any other outdoor activity in NM, you need to always avoid getting dehydrated. Carry along a water bottle or two – always. There are lots of easy ways to pack water – you can find water bottle holders that attach to the saddle, or you can carry them in a fanny pack, or camelback if you’re going for a really long ride. I always preferred to carry a couple water bottles that I could balance in a fanny pack, easily accessible for me, no bouncing on the horse. Be careful about using large saddlebags filled with heavy items like water – these can bounce on your horse’s loins and make him very sore in a very short time.

Be prepared – use a cantle bag or similar to carry a rain poncho, small first aid kit, sunscreen, snacks, hoof pick.

Once you’ve discovered the pleasure of trail riding in small doses, you may be interested in trying some longer rides, camping out with your horse, maybe a competitive ride.

Competitive trail riding and endurance riding are both sports that demand a lot of both horse and rider. You have to spend a lot of hours in the saddle, riding lots of miles, preparing for the competition. These sports really test your skill as a horseperson as you go the distance, and your horse’s athletic ability and heart. When you have a good horse for a partner and a good trail to ride. When you are able to meet the challenge and finish the ride with a sound, happy horse that is ready to go out and do it all over again the next day, it’s an incredible feeling of accomplishment. There’s nothing like riding many, many miles to develop your skills as a rider. And there’s nothing like spending hours in the saddle to really get to know your horse.

Regardless of whether you have an interest in competing, or simply want to ride for pleasure, it’s wonderful to have a fit, well-conditioned horse.

Recommended reading:
Trail Riding, by Rhonda Hart Poe
Go the Distance, by Nancy S. Loving, DVM
The Complete Guide to Endurance Riding and Competition, by Donna Snyder-Smith
Have Saddle, Will Travel, by Don West

NATRC Rider’s Manual

Cross Train Your Horse, Books One and Two, by Jane Savoie
For the Good of the Horse, by Mary Wanless
For the Good of the Rider, by Mary Wanless
Endurance and Competitive Trail Riding, by Linda Tellington-Jones

Ruth Bourgeois is an avid trail rider, distance and former competitive trail rider, and trails advocate who moved to New Mexico partly to enjoy the vast trail riding opportunities. Ruth lives in Taos, New Mexico with her four horses and is self-employed, doing web design and marketing ([]). She is a founding member of the Equine Spirit Sanctuary, a horse rescue and sanctuary (

Originally posted 2012-08-11 15:01:53.

How Can I Think and Act Like a Trustworthy Leader? Get Taught by a Horse

“In teaching skills, in developing self-confidence, the same sort of patience and kindness is needed with horses as with people.” ~ President Dwight Eisenhower

” I have often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.”
~ President Ronald Reagan

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”
~ British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

FRITZ BLACK from Birdseye, Utah, is from a family of foundry-men and ranchers. He is a very tall, strong man with a gentle voice and easy manner. He expertly rides and deeply respects horses. He uses the lessons that horses have taught him ~ and the horses themselves ~ to instruct world-class industrial managers in the most vital component of leadership: Trust.

Black’s company accepts applicants for an intense and relatively un-pampered four days of stable, field and classroom instruction with him and his posse of expert management psychologists and veteran cowpokes who actually work the ranch. Those who complete the course fly back home with a sound and practical ability to increase the level of trust they feel for others and that others feel for them.

We asked Mr. Black, who for 21 years was a manager and leadership instructor for the Nestlé nutrition, health and wellness company, to reply to questions about the psychological basics and the practical details of how horses actually teach lessons in leadership.

Question: Can horses detect lies and liars?

Reply: I do not believe they can detect lies and liars. What they can do is always see the truth. Horses are prey animals, so they think much differently than we do. They approach every interaction with a human as a fearful situation. Horses believe that every human is a liar. They are looking for inconsistency in a person’s action that will validate the fear they feel. They catch every mistake a person makes in their body language and in their actions. They manifest this through their own reactions. Like most prey animals, horses have the ability to look and listen to more than one thing at a time. When a horse looks at you with one eye, but the other is looking elsewhere; they are showing distrust. They same is true with their ears. If you cannot see inside of both ears, they are not trusting and respecting you.

Q. What characteristics do horses and riders share with followers and leaders?

R. I believe that great followers and great leaders have very similar characteristics. Both are dedicated, well trained and ready to work towards a goal. In the case of a professional horseman the same is true. The relationships look much like that of the relationships of leaders and followers. However, few horsemen are professionals. Most people ride for pleasure and respite. In this case the horse is working and the rider is recreating. The relationship is much more like a friendship than a working relationship. Just as it is more common to make mistakes with those closest to us, (spouses, children, close friends) it is easy to be less attentive to the needs and wants of a horse you ride for pleasure. The lessons a horse can teach you will help you just as much, if not more, with the close relationships in your life. Through working with and understanding horses, you will learn the keys to service and building better relationships in all areas of your life.

Q. What makes horses angry?

R. Horses are social animals. They live in groups and develop a hierarchal order amongst the herd. They get angry when that order is not followed or respected. As an example; at feeding time the most dominant horse always eats first. If another tries to get in front of that horse, the dominant horse will bite, kick, and push the offending horse mercilessly. Another situation that angers horses is an invasion of their space. Every horse has a personal space that it does not want violated. (It differs with every horse.) To train a horse and get them to be a steady animal you can trust, a trainer must take small steps into that personal space and expand it in every session. If you try to move too fast and take the next step before a horse is ready, that angers them.

Q. Can many horses be ridden by one rider? And vice versa.

R. Yes and yes. A trainer lays the groundwork. Once a horse is comfortable with being ridden, any rider can step in and ride them. However; the horse carefully watches the new rider’s every move. At the first sign of deception or inconsistency, the horse starts to become difficult to handle. If trust is lost, the horse will not follow the new rider’s direction and will refuse to work. If it worsens, the horse will do all it can to get out of the situation including throwing the rider and running away. A rider can ride many different horses. The rider will need to understand the different personalities, level of training, and needs of every horse. The rider cannot treat every horse the same. They need to understand every horse and work within each one’s abilities.

Q. How far does a rider trust his or her horse?

R. A more appropriate question would be; how far does a rider trust himself or herself. When all is said and done, the horse has little to do with the quality of the ride. As long as the horse feels safe and has trust in the rider, all will go well. The horse will do what is asked quickly and efficiently. If the horse doesn’t trust and respect the rider it will be a war of wills and a very unpleasant day.

Q. How did General Eisenhower feel about horses? Other presidents?

R. Eisenhower was an expert horseman. He loved the animals and kept many of them on his farm. In his book, At Ease: Stories I Tell My Friends, Eisenhower talks at length about “Blackie” a horse he trained and rode during his two-year deployment in Panama. He stated, “In teaching skills, in developing self-confidence, the same sort of patience and kindness is needed with horses as with people.” Some biographers believe that the horse “Blackie” taught Eisenhower as much as the officer taught the horse. One author goes so far as to assert that the horse was instrumental to helping Eisenhower to get over the death of his son the previous year and may have saved his marriage. Other presidents and world leaders were avid horsemen. Teddy Roosevelt was a true cowboy and he loved horses. Ronald Regan once said,” I have often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” Winston Churchill said, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”

Q. Can horse whisperers also be people whisperers?

R. Only if they want to be. All great horse trainers are able to connect with the animals through a deep love and dedication to these awesome creatures. They understand them and have empathy for them. They see the way each horse wants to be treated and act accordingly. Dedication, consistency and respect drive their actions and help them to develop a strong relationship with the horse upon a foundation of trust. If the same passion and dedication is put into leading people, the results would certainly be similar. However, I have found that most “horse whisperers” as you call them, typically have limited interest in working with people. People are deceptive and hard to read. Horses are not. They have no idea how to deceive anyone. Typically, it is two very different types of people that make a life in these two endeavors. This is the main reason that I have a horse training expert on the team. He is a word-class horse trainer, but he is a novice in dealing with people. I have made a life of leading people, but I am a novice in training horses. We form a team with the ability to help both man and horse.

Q. What can horses teach about: setting and reaching goals; levels of concentration; mental and physical energy; impulsiveness; hesitation; openness; self-deceit; self-control; decisiveness; and imagination?

R. Simple: Consistency, persistence, passion, responsibility, focus, work ethic, honesty, respect, and creativity are all needed to prove your integrity to the horse. If you have integrity, (you are who you say you are and you do what you say you will), the horse will trust you and learn how to serve you. Here is an example: In order to make the horse comfortable before riding them, you must clean their hooves out. Dirt and small rocks can get packed in the voids of the horse’s feet. With the added weight of the saddle, tack and rider, this can cause severe discomfort to the horse. Before you ever think about saddling the horse, you had better be able to pick up their feet and clean them. So it is an early goal of training that must be completed before you move to the next goal. Imagine the trust a horse must have in you to allow you to lift one of its feet. We take people through this process and they get to see the work needed to reach the goal of simply cleaning the hooves. The horse shows them all of the mistakes they make along the way.

Q. Can a person hide his or her true self from a horse?

R. No! That is what makes our program so powerful. Horses do not care about a person’s title, income, skill set, etc. They only care about and react to what is happening to them right now. They do not understand deception and lies. They see only the truth. The truth is not found in intensions and motive. It is found only in decisions and actions. When a person works with a horse, they learn to see their own inconsistencies and can work on improving their body language. You can psyche yourself up and convince yourself you are not afraid of a horse, but your body language tells the truth. The horse will see the fear and react to it. They will even take advantage of it.

Q. What are the compatibilities and trouble spots, if any, among fillies, stallions, geldings, men and women riders in various combinations? Is there a best fit? Is there a worst?

R. There is no formula that works better than any other. A much more important detail to look at is whether the horse and rider have complementary characteristics. You do not want to put a fearless rider on a fearless horse or a timid rider on a timid horse. A much better pairing would be to put the fearless rider on a bold, yet cautious horse and the timid rider on a proud, yet steady horse. Every horse has a personality. We try to match personalities and find the right horse for every rider. I will say that women are typically much better riders than men. They seem to have a maternal instinct that the horses respond well to. As a generality, they are more serving and empathetic. Men are typically better trainers as they don’t worry so much about asking the horse to do something the horse finds uncomfortable. Generally, men will push a horse harder and get more out of the horse in every training session.

Q. Are there heavy-weight horses for heavy-weight riders?

R. Horses are built to handle weight. It may seem like a person that weighs twice as much as an average person should have a horse twice as big, but that is just not true. I believe that most mature horses can handle the weight of 99.9% of those that would ride them. I am a fairly large guy. I am 6′-6″ tall and weigh 250 lbs. My favorite horse, and the one I ride the most, is one of our smallest horses. This little horse handles my weight easily and could take a rider weighing 350 if needed.

Q. What can a horse teach a leader that can’t be learned from golf, poker and football?

R. They can teach us the importance of building relationships upon a foundation of service, consistency, trust and responsibility. Poker and golf are individual games with little need for relationship skills. Poker can teach you to read body language and to be a good deceiver. Golf can teach the principles of hard work, solid fundamentals and risk/reward aggressiveness. Football is a team sport that teaches you to do your job and be a part of something greater than yourself. However, all people on the team understand the goal of winning games and performing well. With horses you are dealing with a participant that really would rather be out eating grass. You have to be able to get them to do things that they would rather not do. I have yet to see a horse finish a ride and want to hang around with the rider to celebrate. They just want to get back to the pasture and away from the rider.

Q. How great must a rider be to ride well with a great horse?

R. There are only two limitations in riding any horse well – trust and training. The rider of this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winning horses was Calvin Borel. Mr. Borel had only one workout with Mine That Bird before the Kentucky Derby. The horse was very well trained and prepared for the race, as was the jockey. They quickly, with only one workout, learned to trust each other and the result speaks for itself. I am confident that I could ride Mine That Bird, but I am certainly not ready or willing to ride him in a race. The result would be ugly. So the real issue is not in matching greatness or talent, it’s in a refined relationship between horse and rider. Each must know their role and be trusting of the other. If both the horse and rider are great at what they do, the result happens much quicker. (Stephen M. R. Covey would call this “the speed of trust”.) An average rider can easily ride a great horse. The results however, will be average. The lowest common denominator dictates the outcome.

Q. Can horses “love” people, and vice versa?

R. Certainly. You first need to understand that love is a verb. To love the horse, you must serve the horse, protect the horse, and give the horse your time. The horse will serve you in the same way if you have built a relationship upon a strong foundation of consistency, trust and responsibility. Horses will show you love by doing what you ask them to do. You may even get a kiss from them if you have carrots in your pocket.

Q. “How do horses deal with ego?”

R. Horses are proud creatures. They live in a hierarchical society where ego comes into play every day. Once a human is introduced, the structure of the herd changes. Every horse looks to the herd leader to see if they fear this person. If the leader shows fear, the herd stays away. If the leader horse shows no fear and approaches the human, that person will soon be surrounded by horses. If a person comes into this interaction with ego, the lead horse will read the body language and react in a fearful manner because horses believe that ego interferes with understanding. Horses believe that people who lack understanding are scary creatures. They look for validation of this fear in every movement a human makes. Ego, in the mind of a horse, translates into aggression. You have to enter this relationship with your ego checked at the stall door. BL

By Ben Luck

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Originally posted 2012-07-24 16:57:25.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Horsemanship

Expert Author William Savage

English Lit was not high among my favorite classes in high school but I thoroughly enjoyed the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I always intended to have a book of those essays for my own and after many ( many, many) years of procrastination I bought his book of essays not long ago.

I enjoy them as much now as I did then.

Emerson didn’t say much about horses. Of course in his day nearly every one was transported from place to place on the back of or behind one. Maybe somewhere in his writings he talkes about horses – I ‘m not sure. But, in reading his essay “Compensation”, I thought there’s much about horsemanship here, even though Emerson doesn’t discuss horses at all. Still, it’s a good essay for the horseman or horsewoman to read.

In Compensation, Emerson discusses the dualism of nature and the forces of equilibrium that in effect rule our lives. There are basic principles that we are either unaware of or choose to ignore in our daily pursuits. When we “go with the flow” (my words not Emerson’s) we tend to be rewarded, when we don’t, things come back to bite us.

Horses seem to understand the laws of nature bettter than we do. Being prey animals they aren’t risk-takers. They’re happier in the herd than being the “individual contributors” that we tend to prize so highly. To be an “average” horse is likely not shameful as far as the horse is concened, where to be satisfied with being “average” implies a bit of the slacker in us.

What comes out of all of this, is the reward granted in learning to live in harmony with the horse. The horse after all instinctively tries to maintain equilibrium. We try to do this when we’re first learning horseback riding, but in general we end up doing the opposite.

We haven’t yet learned to “go with the flow”.

In halter training the foal the best way to get it to initially follow a lead is to put a rope around it’s hindquarters and gently tug, pushing the foal towards us. With with gentle pressure applied to its hindquarters, the foal yields to the pressure to restore equilibrium. If we try to pull the foal physically by the lead rope, it thinks it’s being forced to heaven only knows where and it doesn’t want to go there.

So in training the foal we learn something ourselves – how to achieve equilibrium.

In the saddle we learn that a horse naturally yields to very slight pressure. We’re the ones that have to learn that – not the horse. The horse is just trying to reestablish equilibrium by yielding to pressure, be it tension on a rein, pressure by a leg or a subtle shift in body weight.

In the round ring, the horse responds to what I like to think of as visual pressure. Our location and movement in the center of the ring influences the actions of the horse, even though there is no physical force exerted. Again, the horse is responding to this pressure to get the situation to where it “should be” – that is, equilibrium.

In Compensation, Emerson states that if we do something (e.g. train a horse) poorly, we end up with a poor result (e.g., a poorly trained horse) because we’ve messed up equilibrium and will suffer the consequences as the world seeks to get back in equilibrium. We get our just rewards, our compensation and have to live with it. Deal with the horse harshly and you’ll always have to deal with it harshly to get it to do anything. That’s the new state of equiibrium and it costs.

Had Emerson devoted an essay or two to the art of horsemanship I’m guessing he’d be regarded as the 19th Century equivalent to Xenophon, Lyons, or Parelli. I could be wrong but I’m guessing that Ralph Waldo Emerson believed his own stuff and he’d have been a pretty effective trainer of horses.

I’d encourage everyone to give Emerson a try. Recommending his writings on my equine oriented website probably doesn’t make much sense – unless I add a section titled “Other or Misc.”. And I don’t promise reading his essays would make you a better horseman or horsewoman – but it probably wouldn’t hurt any either. You might even get to like Ralph Waldo.

William “Bill” savage lives in Montana. A retired engineer he has a few horses on a few acres. When not spending time with family, horses, or doing chores, Bill works on his equine web site where these articles are created.

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Originally posted 2012-07-22 16:50:34.

Handling Horses With Confidence – Stop Fearing and Start Enjoying Your Horse

Expert Author Tamara L Svencer

Quiet Confidence

There is one tool that any person needs to have in order to successfully work with horses. It is a tool that is of more importance than any other tool that you may possess. You cannot buy this tool at a feed store or order it online. It is a tool that will make all other tools of the trade more useful. And without it all other tools useless. That tool is confidence. A sort of fearlessness in the face of an animal that could very easily hurt you at best, and kill you at worst.

A horse by nature does not really communicate its wishes through verbal commands. They do on occasion let you know what they are about to do by whinnying or neighing, but for the most part they speak to each other through body language. I want to address the fact that when you step into their world your body language will do the speaking for you. You need to learn what they are saying and be able to anticipate what they are about to do. The more fluent you become in speaking their language the easier and safer your horse experiences will become.

A horse is a prey animal. It survives through picking up on the slightest signals around it. It is also a great reader of things unseen. They have a sixth sense of sorts, filtering in information from between the lines, as well as directly. When you venture into their space they are picking up on so much more than what you are doing. They can sense what you are feeling. They have a sponge like ability to absorb what you are feeling especially anxiety. It is very important to remember that when you are feeling nervous or anxious so is your horse. This signals to your horse that they need to be ready to flee because danger is around.

Unfortunately they do not understand that to a person who lacks confidence they are often the danger that is around. So whenever you are going to interact with your horse or any horses for that matter, you need to really be aware of the feelings you are projecting onto them. You need a quiet confidence, a sense of relaxed energy, that will allow them to remain calm in your presence. And over time you will develop this quiet confidence more and more.

What do I mean by quiet confidence? Well quiet confidence comes from a sense that you truly know that everything around you is alright and that you are in control of the situation. It speaks of a true leadership state of mind. That is what a horse is looking for, a true leader. If you want to have a natural leadership role with your horse, this is the key, quiet confidence. When you see people yelling and screaming at their horses teetering on the edge of abusing them into doing what they want, they are reacting out of fear or anger. Fear and anger do not make for good leadership qualities. Horses understand that when you are out of control you can not control them.

Before you can have control of your horse, you must be able to control yourself. The horse knows this and you should learn it before going any further. Focus on understanding that with a horse fear is a sign of weakness or danger. Weak people do not lead horses, weak people get pushed around by horses. When a horse senses fear it also can become nervous and ready to flee for safety. When a horse does not respond to something you want it to do and it makes you angry you need to take a mental timeout. Horses do not lead through anger. Horses lead in one way and one way only – quiet confidence.

Confidence is not something you can just get either. It is learned, built upon, and grows. It takes time to get the confidence you need to be a true leader in all situations.

The whole idea of natural horsemanship has taken off to a great extent in recent years. It has helped put some of the archaic and outdated training techniques to rest and for this I am thankful. Just like any new idea that comes along, it has been over marketed and milked for every single penny it can produce. People have slapped the “natural horsemanship” label on everything from books to gear in order to sell it more quickly. I am not a natural horsewoman. I am just a woman who seeks to have a very balanced and productive relationship with my horse. In fact if I wanted to be a natural horsewoman I don’t think I would ever place my rump in a saddle. My horses would be left running free on open ranges and I would never subject them to the training, fences, trailers, and shows I so often do. Everything humans do for the most part with and too their horses is unnatural. Calling it natural doesn’t make it that way.

Whatever I can do to learn more, I will. And whenever I can help teach someone else something that will aid them in developing a deeper relationship with their horse, I will.

I hope by the end of this book you will have learned something and moved forward in the understanding that a horse is not just a beast. They are very intelligent, very perceptive, very able creatures that I feel every human can call their partner.

The relationship you have with your horse is much like the relationship you share with people in your lives. To have a successful relationship of any kind it must be a working relationship. It must continually be growing and as it grows it will strengthen itself naturally. It must also be a balanced relationship. The start to having a balanced relationship with your horse is to understand that a horse is a horse and not a human being. That is the beginning to having a fulfilling experience that makes both parties happy.

Human beings have this inner need to humanize animals and other “things” that inhabit our lives. We assume that animals think and react like people through spoken words. I have heard many people referring to their horses as if the horse was just another human. I want you to understand that a horse speaks a different language, feels different emotions, and is very non human.

I think the world may be a better place if people were a little more like horses and a little less like people. And that is the key here, be more like a horse instead of forcing the horse to be more like a human.

The biggest mistake most people make with their horses is to “love” them too much. It isn’t hard to love a horse. It is really easy in fact to develop a very deep emotional attachment to it. I want you to love your horse. I want you to love your horse so much that you make unselfish decisions when it comes to their development. Spoiling a horse in the name of love only benefits the owners own need to feel loved by the horse. But horses do not “love” people in the sense than humans love one another. Yes they can become very attached to their human companions. They become bonded in a way that resembles human love. But it is not the same. When you truly love your horse you will understand that you must make every effort possible to bring forth a well mannered and obedient animal.

Chances are that you will not own your horse for the entirety of its life. Things change so rapidly in our lifetimes. People lose jobs, they need to relocate, get new jobs, have children, become physically unable to care for their horses. Many things can happen that will result in you needing to find a new home for your horse. A horse that is well mannered, submissive, and obedient will go on to have a long and well-lived life.

It is horses that have been spoiled in the name of love that develop the multitude of undesirable behaviors that will dwindle their chances at finding a good home. And even worse your beloved friend could end up at a stock sale being shipped to Canada or Mexico to have their lives ended in a cruel and unimaginable way.

It is a sad but truthful reality that as the economy has dwindled in recent years we find far too many horses left in a state of homelessness. Many people who loved their horses have had to make the ultimate decision on the welfare of their animals and surrender them to others so that they can be cared for adequately. There are so many horses and not enough quality places for them to live right now. Many horses have ended up in the hands of horse traders, or less than perfect living arrangements. Only the good horse who is useful to man will find a place in this world to live a nice quality life. Horses that have issues are often the first to be sent off to the sale.

So if you truly love your horse, you will be a strong leader. Leading your horse in a way that will produce a balanced animal will insure him a place in the human world for many years to come. I ask you to put aside your own needs and consider your horses long term needs. Spoiling your horse will not gain you anything other than a lot of problems or worse injuries.

I want you to understand what I mean by spoiling. Anything you do with your horse needs to have a few simple boundaries. You need to maintain a space around you. You can envision a bubble of sorts – it expands out about 1 or 2 feet around you – this space is yours and the horse is not to enter it. (When we look at the lead mare behavior in the next chapter you will learn more about why this is so important)
You can pet your horse, in fact I feel touching your horse all over his body is an excellent way of gentling him/her. You can offer your horse treats on occasion as long as it is done in moderation and at the correct time. People tend to think that because a horse comes rushing over to the fence to see them, somehow they have created a special connection with their horse. The horse will always come running to the fence if it is given treats for showing up. They come running to see the treat not you.

I want to show you that the horse can come running from a true bond to you, not because he is bribed into behavior. You need to remember that everything you do should be done in moderation which will end in balance.

Balance is not something only needed in the saddle. Balance must exist in every aspect of horsemanship. Imagine a scale if you will on the left hand side you see the opposite of spoiling, you see neglect and abuse. It is easier to picture this end of the spectrum in your mind. On the left we have the abusive owner who try’s to beat submission into his animal and neglects to even care for its basic needs of food, shelter and water. Now look to the right hand side of the spectrum and you will see the polar opposite of the bad side. You see the owner who allows the horse to dominate and dictate to him/her what is going to happen. On this side the owner pops in every once in awhile with sugary treats and over indulges the animal. Soon the horse is nipping at his owners’ pockets and dragging him around by the lead rope or worse kicking them out of disrespect or being uncontrollable in some other way. You need to be somewhere directly in the middle of this scale. You need to maintain balanced and fair treatment of your horse through quiet confidence.

A horse is a simple animal. You can show your horse “love” by giving him/her proper nutrition and as much clean drinking water as they can drink. You can show love by feeding him grain twice a day, giving him a good supply of hay, and a nice pasture to graze upon. You can show them love by keeping their stall clean, and keeping their bodies clean through proper grooming. You can show them love by providing proper veterinarian care and keeping them pest free. You can show them love by scratching under their chin or in any other place they can’t normally reach. This is a horses happy place, being cared for and being provided for. This type of love will benefit your horse for many years to come and will produce a pleasant animal to work and play with.

The key is to find balance, where both parties are happy and content with the partnership. If the horse isn’t happy you are too far to the left. If you are not happy you have drifted too far to the right. If you stay in the middle everyone will be content.

It is human, not horse beliefs, that dictate that we must buy affection. I told you earlier to think more like the horse. They don’t care if you are spending lots of money on new halters and bridles. They don’t care that you took a loan out to have a better horse trailer than your neighbor. The true connection that will bond you tightly to your horse doesn’t cost anything but time. Humans somehow try to make up for not enough time spent by placing a monetary band-aid on the shortcoming. You cannot buy your way to control. You must put in the effort and the time needed to make the connection and the connection can only be made through confident leadership.

In the horse world there are two types of social roles, a leader and a follower. If you take a look out in your own field you will see that there is only one true main leader and the rest filter in behind them. Number 2 horse will follow number 1 but she will also lead number 3. Number 3 follows number 1 & 2 but leads number 4. There are no two number 2 ranking horses, it is a single file line that leads all the way down to the lowest member of the society. They all bow down to number 1 and number 1 submits to no one. Your job is to study number 1 and learn about how she leads with quiet confidence.

Confidence is something that comes from the inside and extends out into our physical being. It is a feeling of collected self awareness. You feel powerful therefore you are. Maybe you are fortunate and are a naturally confident person, then your task is going to be easier. Be sure that your confidence is not actually arrogance. Arrogance is actually the lack of true confidence. It comes from feeling inadequate and trying to over compensate by puffing oneself up. Horses can call this bluff easily. Arrogance and horses will add up to injury or worse death.

The horse will look for a confident leader. You need to stand with confidence, move with confidence, breath with confidence. You need to personify confidence. I want you to stand up tall and move like a mountain around horses. In your mind you ball up all of that strong energy and you move right through them instead of wavering around them. If they are in your way, you make them move out of your way.

Time will prove to you as you apply this simple state of mind that the horse will respond naturally to you and move as you will them too. You must be very clear and focused in your thinking as to exactly what you want them to do and then apply just enough energy to make it come true.

There will be times when you may face a horse that has more confidence than you. In these instances you will need to make sound judgments on how you proceed. Training an animal with more confidence than you can be dangerous.

Ask yourself if this horse is really more confident, or is he more afraid? Are his actions based on dominance or fear? You need to study this horse and see if you can learn something from it. Remember horses are our teachers and they have mimicked their way to where they are. Study his/her confidence and then do just that, mimic their behavior, but always be safe.

I want you to really develop this confidence around horses. Become consciously aware of what you are projecting at the horse. Be aware of what you are feeling before you go through the gate. Be diligent in your pursuit of this quiet confidence.

You can spend thousands of dollars attending a seminar or clinic on horse training to learn how to train horses. You can go out and spend hundreds of dollars on new training aids or even thousands on a new round pen to do your training in. All of it will be money wasted if you don’t have the confidence to lead the horse. You cannot fake it. You cannot buy it. You must develop it. It is free except for the time you spend building it. It is invaluable.

There are many horse owners who have a fearful relationship with their own horses. Being fearful is the main mistake people make with ther horses. Being even the slightest bit nervous around a horse will put you in the subordinate seat. You will not get results in your training. You will have a very flat and unsatisfying relationship if you base it on fear.

I want to suggest to those that are afraid, even in the slightest, of their own horse that they go out and buy a whip. You may never even need to use it. It is more a tool to help you feel safe and more confident. Get out your lunge whip if you want. Carry it in your hand when dealing with your horse. I am not asking you to use it, I am asking you to carry it. Sometimes the security of knowing you have it will give your confidence the boost it needs to start conversing successfully with your horse. If a horse respects a lifeless stick that only weighs ounces because it can produce a slight sting on his rear, imagine how much more respect you alone could have with the horse. Carry your whip in hand until you feel safe in leaving it behind. It is merely an aid to help you start to understand that horses are not as big and bad as some people believe them to be.

Before long you will understand just how powerful you can be and just how submissive a horse can be. You will also find that this new confidence will filter out into the rest of your life. You will walk a little straighter and be bolder in what you do. You learn to be more aware of the feelings you are projecting. Confidence will attract the horses attention just like it does a humans.

Remember confidence is not bullying. Think back to when you were in school and there were bullies. Usually a bully was just puffing himself up and acting aggressively towards others because he was afraid. A horse can tell when he is being bullied and it will not have the lasting effect that confidence will. You can bully a horse sometimes but bullying will only get you so far.

I have seen lots of horse bullies and none of them were horses. They have all been humans trying to put on a show of strength. And that is all it is, a show. The horse knows the difference between bullying and confidence. Bullying comes from inner fear, confidence comes from inner strength. A horse will follow strength, he will flee from fear. And keep in mind that if he can’t flee from the fear, he can as a last resort, act out in protective aggression. Bullying a horse is a good way to get hurt or killed.

I don’t want you to fear your horse. Sometimes it is easy to fear an animal that has so much power and so much strength. His size alone can easily make him dangerous but for the most part a horse is a docile and timid creature.

He is also submissive and willing to be a part of man’s world. If he weren’t he would simply jump over the fence we have built to contain him or bust through the barn door and set himself free. He doesn’t use his strength in the same manner a human being would. He will if faced with a life threatening situation, but for the most part he is docile and timid.

That’s not to say it is a guarantee that your horse will never assert itself over you physically. He can and chances are he will, but it will be in more subtle ways than stomping you to death. Horses often “test” you to see if you are paying attention. Subtle invasions of your role as leader can add up to a mutiny, so be aware of what the horse is saying to you at all times.

Try to replace fear with respect. Respect the fact that he is large and you should proceed with educated caution when handling him. Do not irritate a horse or tease it. Do not provoke him to prove a point to other humans. In fact leave all your desires to impress people with your horse skills at home. Concentrate on you and him and the relationship you truly want to share.

Use common sense. Do not stand behind a horse and taunt it to kick you to prove it won’t. You may get unlucky one day and try this with the wrong horse. Show respect, not fear. After you start to have a “safe” track record your confidence will naturally grow and replace the fears you once had.

This article is an excerpt from the book H.E.R.D Human Equine Relationship Development by author Tamara Svencer

Learn the secrets of equine communication through body language. End problem behavior and have more of a natural balanced relationship with your horse today! Tamara Svencer is the author of H.E.R.D Human Equine Relationship Development visit to learn more!


Originally posted 2012-07-17 05:16:59.

Horse Riding – Is It Wrong to Dismount When Your Horse Acts Up?

A mantra for many horse trainers and riding coaches is that you “can’t let the horse win”. This belief leads to riders – even nervous ones – being told that it is wrong to get off their horses when they act up because the horse has “won” and learned how to get the rider off his back. I disagree with this thinking and encourage riders to dismount whenever they choose and especially when they feel unsafe. The threshold where fear starts is different for everyone. Some people are triggered by just the thought of the horse possibly “acting up”. Other people might only become very unsettled after the horse has bucked, reared or spooked. The important factor is your awareness of tension caused by fear and your ability to manage it.

A primitive part of our brains, the amydgala, controls our fear response. It is also known as “the lizard brain” because its programming is able to take over the rational mind as well as the physical responses. It is what triggers your fight, flight or freeze mode. You lose the ability to think logically, your body tenses, your heart rate quickens and you either stop breathing or your breathing becomes very rapid. As the fear heightens, other physical symptoms may occur such as being light headed, feeling nauseous, getting tunnel vision, shaking, sweating or clammy skin. Your horse may become anxious as well as he senses and reacts to your nervousness. In this state, the situation can go from bad to worse if you stay in the saddle. You may be able to ride through it, but it will not be an enjoyable experience for either you or your horse. Unless you are able to work through your anxiety, release your tension, breathe and think clearly, it is likely to negative training experience for you both. In order to improve your confidence, you need to build on positive experiences – starting with small steps.

When you recognize the first signs of fear, your little inner voice telling you to get off, or that you do not have the riding skills to deal with the situation, you can create a positive training opportunity by dismounting and working through the situation from the ground. Ground work, done correctly, gives you and your horse the time and opportunity to get your composure,regain focus and work through the fearful situation. Use a foundation of training building blocks, that allow you and your horse to take one step at a time at your own pace to gain trust and confidence in yourselves as well as in each other. In your own time, continue the exercises from the saddle. But, you don’t have to do it all in one session.

If your horse is calm but you are a bundle of nerves, just practice mounting and dismounting over and over. While you are doing this exercise, your horse will get used to the idea that he should not walk off as soon as you are in the saddle and that dismounting does not mean you are finished working. When you are ready, ask your horse to walk a few steps – as far as you are comfortable going – before you halt and dismount. Extend the length of time you stay in the saddle and/or the area of the trail or arena you go to. If you need to settle before remounting, do a bit of ground work. You can change your mind at any time because your horse has no idea what your plan is. Gradually push the envelope of your comfort zone by asking a bit more of yourself and your horse as you feel more comfortable and confident.

Avoid putting the pressure of deadlines and expectations on yourself and your horse. Your journey will have highs and lows. At times, you will retrace steps you have already taken and other times you will leap forward. Confidence is built on a good foundation of solid building blocks, having trust in yourself and your horse, and having a support team that encourages you but allows you to grow in your own time and at your own pace. Enjoy the ride.

Anne Gage is a Gold Level trainer certified in the Chris Irwin method of horsemanship. She teaches adult riders to confidently work with their horses, improve their riding skills and bring the joy back into their riding experience. Her training and coaching methods are based on building mutual trust & respect between horse and human. Anne coaches and trains clients out of High Point Farm near Orangeville, Ontario, Canada and also travels to other locations giving one & two day clinics, workshops and private sessions. For more information, visit her website

Originally posted 2012-07-14 13:55:01.

What Horsemanship is All About

Riding horses is more than sitting atop a horse and having the horse move gracefully. Riding takes skill but having the horse understand one’s cues is more important than your riding. Without the horse knowing what your legs and body are trying to tell them, one’s communication with the horse will be useless as the horse will not follow your commands like one will be expecting them. Horsemanship is more than groundwork, but covers ground training all the way to training them to be responsive while ridden and one’s ability to ride well.

Groundwork is essential to have mastered before sitting atop a horse. Working with a horse as if it were being taught this for the first time, tends to be an excellent way of re-enforcing the basics of horsemanship. For example, if a horse were to not be able to tie or stand in the cross-ties at it’s home stable, it’ll probably react to everything at the show ground and become rather agitated and unrideable. Ground training must be mastered in order to progress to being able ride let alone show.

Training the horse, once in the saddle, to respond properly to one’s aids is important to be able to have a bond with them and succeed in the show ring. Every move one makes in the saddle to the way the hands and legs move sends signals to the horse to do certain things. Often mis-communication happens between horse and rider because the horse hasn’t be trained to respond to one’s aids properly. In the end the response one may be seeking may not happen because the horse is misunderstanding what their rider is trying to tell them.

Learning to ride well is also horsemanship. Not one person has mastered how to ride the horse because horses are creatures that tend to be unpredictable. If one did not know how to properly communicate with the horse without causing problems or injuries there would be issues with the riding which could lead to death. Every moment on and around a horse requires horsemanship, including petting a horse’s body to leading a horse safely.

Without horsemanship and learning how to properly communicate to the horse what one wants issues would appear and put people in danger of injury and even death. Clear communication between both the rider and the horse is important to be able to ride at leisure or compete at a local schooling show. Horsemanship takes the level of communication to a higher and clearer level so horse and rider can reach their dreams.

Katie is an avid horseback rider that has had difficulties with her posture while riding in her couple years of horseback riding but found that taking lessons is not the most effective route to fixing the problem. She has a site on Pilate exercises and horsemanship for horseback riders called Pilate Rider. The site focuses on Pilates and horsemanship for horseback riders and how they will improve the rider.

Originally posted 2012-07-11 13:53:10.

Tips For Riding A Dressage Horse

So you’re thinking of taking up dressage with your horse, or maybe you are already competing successfully but looking to develop it. In this article we will take a look at the key points of dressage and some tips to progress your dressage to the next level.

It is vital we know what dressage actually is! For many, we already know what it is but can we define it? There are many different interpretations and definitions of the sport. At its most simple, it is the training of the horse in which this increases control, safety and pleasure of the ride. This is dressage that spans across the entire sport of equestrianism and will be found in show jumping, eventing and many others, not just dressage!

But there is a level where this basic dressage develops into a more sophisticated, demanding movements and techniques. From this the higher levels of dressage develop.

To add to the basic definition, the horse must now work to his greatest gymnastic ability whilst developing and maturing into a supple, obedient and well-muscled “equine athlete”.

Both horse and rider have to roads that both must travel, one of increased physical strengths and dexterity, the second is a mental understanding of the exercises, training techniques, willingness and honesty. Both paths must be undertaken and both undertaken by horse and rider. Without this, the full potential of the partnership between horse and rider will not be achieved.

As well as an understanding of what dressage is, we need to know what the judges of a dressage competition are looking for. To keep this simple and snappy, they are looking for the correct execution of the compulsory exercises, found in the dressage test being carrier out, performed with correct, regular gaits and the correct ‘way of going’.

This term, ‘Way of going’ is a key point in understanding dressage in order to ride a better dressage test.

1. A forward response from the rider’s leg aids.

Horses that are unresponsive to the leg lack the momentum and motivation for action and impulsion from which all the natural movements derive.

2. Suppleness of the horse.

Another vital component of the successful dressage horse is his suppleness through the back, body and neck muscles. This is accomplished by balanced riding with tactful aids used in conjunction with the correct suppling exercises. You should first supple your horse longitudinally (downwards), from his tail to his head and then laterally (left and right). Like humans, horses are often stronger on one side than the other and we aim to equal these strengths and weaknesses. It is really important that enough time and the correct exercises are used for this. It is not forcing the horse into a certain shape! It should be a win-win situation for both horse and rider. Take your time to achieve suppleness and an understanding of your horse’s mechanics. So both you and your horse develop correctly.

3. Accepting a rein contact.

This acceptance of a soft rein contact should develop nicely if you take care of the first two points. The reins are a line of communication and complete the “impulsion circuit”. This starts in the hind legs, over the back and through the reins to the rider’s hands and returns through the rider’s seat and legs back to the horse’s hind-quarters.

What to aim for:

  • Regular and rhythmic gaits:

Showing correct and natural sequence in walk, trot and canter.

  • Forward activity:

Strong but controlled energy.

  • Elastic suppleness:

Both longitudinally, from tail to head, and laterally which is sideways bend.

  • Engagement:

This is when the hind legs of the horse step well underneath his body.

  • Balance:

When the horse carries more weight on his hind legs, it will appear more light on his front rather than looking like he is heading “down hill”.

  • Obedience:

Instant and correct responses from the horse to the rider’s signals, this is achieved best when the horse is willing, confident and understands the exercise.

  • Harmony:

Ease and elegance and which both and horse and rider work as a partnership.

The most important thing to remember when training is that it is not our right to make a horse do what we want, we are very privileged that horse’s are so trusting and accepting of our partnerships. Riding and exercises should be carried out in such a way that both horse and rider win. Finding an experienced coach to progress through with your dressage is vital. We all have coaches, even the very best. Understanding the horse’s physical and mental make up will really help you to become and better rider and trainer of horses, remember Rome was not built in a day and most of all it is about having fun. There’s no point in doing it otherwise!

The Author:
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 and advice please visit

Originally posted 2012-06-30 13:55:54.