Tag Archives: Horse Training

Developing Good Hands

jamesrareyIf you have spent any time riding horses you’ve probably heard the expressions, “gentle hands,” “quiet hands,” or “kind hands.” They’re one of the hallmarks of a good horseback rider, and with good reasons. When the rider isn’t constantly yanking on the reins, the horse is relaxed and more willing to take direction. Also, if you’re showing competitively, rough hands will cost you points. So what does it take to develop “good hands”?

It Begins with Balance

You know the rule of ear,shoulder,hip,heel alignment. If you’re taking horse riding lessons in Fort Worth, Dallas, or elsewhere, you probably learned this fairly early on. Until you achieve this practice, your natural inclination is going to be to want to use your hands to control the horse. Instead,Try this – stand on the ground with your feet slightly apart, and bend your knees. Then lift your heels up as high as you can. Observe that it’s becoming very difficult to maintain your balance, and notice the point at which you start using your arms to try to maintain upright. This is the same thing that happens when you’re not properly balanced in the saddle.


If you’re going to be gentle on the reins, your joints and muscles have to be relaxed. If you’re tensing your shoulders in the trot, for example, you’re bouncing. Your shoulder joints are locking up, and again, you’re out of alignment, and you’re going to begin to use your hands to stabilize. Also make sure your upper arms are relaxed and your elbows are bent. Your lower arm should make a straight line between the corner of the horse’s mouth and your elbow. This prevents you from riding with your wrists instead of with your elbows and shoulders, which clearly would give you more stability.

Maintain Good Posture

Don’t slump in the saddle and round your shoulders. Remember how your mom was always telling you to sit up straight? Probably the instructor you take horseback riding lessons from says the same thing. Slumping causes your ribcage to collapse onto your spine. You want to lift your sternum and allow separation between the spine and the ribcage. This allows for movement in your lower body, while your arms and shoulders remain still.

Think of Your Hands as Separate

Of course you know that your hands are separate, you have a right one and a left one. However, a lot of riders have the problem of using their hands as if they were a single unit. If you can use your hands independently of one another, you’ll be more coordinated and more aware of how you’re using your hands.

It’s never too early to start developing good hands. Remember balance, relaxation, posture and coordination, and you and your horse will both benefit.



Starting at the Right Point

Over and over again I have seen people start at the wrong point in working with horses; I don’t know if that person feels that they know enough to start further on down the program or if they just don’t really understand how to approach the entire project correctly. Either way they have started at a point that allows for many little problems to show up and develop into larger problems. Starting at the right point allows for a progression that has to follow a given set of rules that are already set in the mind of the horse. The answer is quite simple, start at the beginning. Be able to allow yourself to invest the time that will give you the end results that you are looking for. Besides, this is not who is in charge, or even who knows what; but it is about learning and then beginning to work as a team.

Some of these problems that are created may seem very trivial to us, but what we are attempting to do here is to think like the horse, react like the horse and create a relationship with each horse that we come in contact with.

Most of these problems start out as simple acts that we give no thought to, like feeding from the hand or standing in the wrong place. What these problems do is to reinforce the fact that you are not really capable of handling the position within the herd that you are striving for. To be able to occupy a position of trust and being the one that the horse will turn to in time of need you have to be given the respect of the horse that you are dealing with. Simple and thoughtless actions lead to the horse being disrespectful of you, initially it will be little things that happen and over time, they will become much larger problems until you are having problems getting the horse to show any form of respect towards you and allow you to lead.

Horses are like most living creatures and respond well to praise and touch that shows that you care. Feeding from the hand instills that you are nothing more than a hay feeder or gain bucket and they will do what is ever necessary to satisfy their hunger, including walking over the top of you to satisfy that natural urge. It is never the item that you are feeding the horse; it is the fact that you have allowed them to progress past that invisible line that was created through respect. I have heard some people refer to this as invading your area, I do allow horses into my area, but they do so only when I say so, never when they want to come barging in and knock me over. So, knowing that it is never what you feed, it has to be the how of the feeding. The horse will enjoy what you have to give to them; you just need to do it in a manner that allows the trust and respect to be retained. Try taking the bucket that you are feeding them from and place it on the ground, let them eat from it this way, you have shown them that they will be rewarded for good behavior and at the same time retained your position within the relationship.

Many people are willing to accept the little problems, but when you stand back and take a good hard look, you will realize that the horse is able to accept that not following the rules will allow them to also start to do other things that they should not do. That is how little problems become bigger problems and most of the problems that are started on the ground will relate to even bigger problems once you get on their back. Remember, trust and respect are the main points that you are trying to get the horse to relate to you and if you are allowing little things to go unnoticed then the horse starts to lose trust and respect in the same amounts. What starts out as a drip becomes a trickle, then that becomes a steady flow until you have a massive surge and there is almost no way to stop the flow of disrespect.

This all comes down to the acceptance of responsibility. Since the position that you are seeking in the relationship demands certain actions from you, there has to be an ability to accept and enforce the guidelines that come with that position. Again, it is trust and respect, not force or demands.


My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at http://www.BobBurdekin.com


Horse Training Is Not Magic

“Oh, how I wish I had a magic wand. Then I could wave it over you and make things all better.” Words from a friend that have lodged themselves into my mind. And while there are some horses I have worked with that I have greatly desired one for, if there was a horse training wand out there, I would not have a job or perhaps I would be in the wand business. Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how often that is exactly what is expected not only of the horse trainer, but also the horse. I have high standards when it comes to horse training and a horse’s obedience. I expect a horse to stay off my feet when leading; to come to me and allow me to halter it without turning away or raising his head; to listen to my reins with no bucking or bolting; to go where I ask without pushing or pulling me around and the list goes on and on.

However, I do not expect these things without putting the horse through a series of lessons to teach the horse what is required of it. Now, depending on the horse’s previous training and his attitude, some horses will take less time and are easier to teach, but it is consistency, repetition, purpose and awareness involved, not wands. Unfortunately, once the horse steps off my ranch its continuing success literally lay directly in the hands of the owner. Sadly for me, I can usually tell that horse’s fate long before I ever set eyes on the horse. On those first conversations with the owner when I learn not only what the horse is and is not doing, I also learn the whys. That conversation will also tell me how long it will take for that horse to return to those behaviors when it returns home.

The conversation will include statements like, “My horse will be easy,” or “This horse will make you look good.” These owners are bringing the horse to me because they “just don’t have the time.” They think after I put some training into the horse that they will now suddenly have the time they did not have before and that my training stick with no further work or learning on the owners part. It’s not Pixie Dust that made the horse good. Yes, a horse can have a good mind and be a quick and easy learner, but the smart horses will replace all I do with what the owner does faster too. Here’s your wand.

One of my favorite statements, “He will only need 30 days as he has no issues.” Really? Why is he here than? This horse may have had some professional training 10 years ago and the owner knows the horse remembers it and just needs a “tune-up.” I would like to sit the owner down and give them a high school entrance exam and see what they remember. These horses are the ones that have spent the last 10 years rewriting the book, “How To Train Your Owner In Six Easy Kicks.” Now I get to deal with these little issues that become huge problems when the horse starts to understand that I will not tolerate them. Plus, I get to hear the owner insists, “He’s never done that before.” Here’s your wand.

What really takes all possibilities of success from a horse is the disheartening statements that point to the owners attitude of “I am not changing the way I ride/handle the horse, just fix the issue.” The horse and I are destined for failure before we even start. It will not matter how much time, blood, sweat, and many times tears I put into a horse that has an owner with that attitude. They fail to understand that they will undo everything I have done in a matter of a week or less. As soon as they look at the horse they are training it and they refuse to accept that responsibility. Horses mirror the owners. Why? Every horse owner is a teacher. Every horse is a student. If you don’t like an aspect of your horse, it is you that needs fixing more than the horse. Like it or not as easily as I can “fix” a horse, the owner can “unfix” it even faster. Here’s your wand.

This is why I am so refreshed when a horse owner owns up to their responsibilities on those first calls. Admitting they need to learn a new way of handling their horse and to learn how to maintain their horse’s training. They show commitment not only to their horse, but to themselves as well. What’s more, they know that learning never ceases for them and their horses so they want to be sure they are always teaching the right lessons. These are the people who call me throughout the years with such joy in the improvements of their horses, themselves, and the relationship between them. They were able to continue growing as a team because the owner did not expect magic, they accepted the responsibility and challenge of changing themselves. Not once did they ask for a wand nor expect magic to cure their problems.

Jodi Wilson is a recognized authority on the subject of horse training and has spent almost 30 years developing training techniques and solutions for horse owners no matter the discipline or breed.

Jodi is an Accredited Josh Lyons trainer, and is Certified in John Lyons training techniques. Her website, http://Jodi-Wilson.com, provides a wealth of information to improve the relationship between horse and rider. Jodi is also available for clinics and demonstrations as well as lessons, apprenticeships, and horse training.

Jodi has trained and competed in Reining, Sorting, Jumping, Dressage, English and Western Pleasure, Trail and Problem Solving.