In an effort to help folks who are interested in following my approach to horsemanship with their own horses at home I am offering video lessons.
You simply send or post a video clip of you and your horse and I will do my best to help improve both your relationship and performance.
Your lessons will be kept private if you require. I will assess the session, make suggestions for improvements and recommend how to proceed in the future. You can use it as a one off session to get suggestions for overcoming a particular problem. Or you may use this service on a regular basis to help guide you along the path your have chosen to take with your horsemanship. You can avail yourself of this service with as many video clips as you like.
All you have to do is video a session with your horse and post it online. Any of the major video hosting sites will work, including YouTube and Vimeo. You can even set your video settings to private so nobody can look at it without your approval.
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Arranging the Lesson
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Disclaimer: The video lessons are designed to give you a general view of the approach and direction you are taking with your horses. They are not meant to replace regular firsthand instruction with a horse trainer.
The responses and needs of a horse change from moment to moment and it is not possible to provide the instant support sometimes needed that a real lesson can give. The advice and help I offer is general in nature and should be considered in the overall picture of your training practices and accompanying instruction.
Below are examples of video lessons, posted here with the kind permission of the owners.
Just click on any individual bar and a fold down file will reveal the lesson. Click on the bar a second time and the file will fold away.
A great job and huge improvement. Well done Here is my assessment of the clip. If you have any questions, make sure you ask. Ross
Alison, overall the whole video shows a huge improvement and much better experience for you and Deisha. Did you count how many times he tried to nip you? I counted none. You were much clearer and certain in your handling of Deisha. This brought out more focus and try in your horse. Well done.
Having said that here are few spots that could be improved – for your further education.
0.08 – 0.13
Deisha walked through you to avoid the ball. He could have gone 270 deg in any other direction, but he went through you. You got out of his way and allowed it to happen. I would have stopped him the moment his shoulder leaned in my direction (which happened at 0.08). Just stop him. Don’t ask anything but STOP and tell him to stand still. Once he has stopped, you have his attention again - rather than his attention being on avoiding the ball. Now he is stopped you can direct him again to investigate the ball. But first get him to be attentive to you. It’s not okay to ignore you and your space just to avoid the ball. If it was a life threatening situation it might be okay. But this is not the case here.
0.14 – 0.55
There was quite a bit of dragginess and lateness in his forward and backing. These still need to be more finely tuned.
0.55 – 1.22
You were doing fine with presenting the tarp. You can make it easier for him by folding into something smaller. His worry was in putting his feet on the tarp, so fold it narrow enough so that he can step over it without stepping on it. Or you can ask him to cross diagonally at a corner. It doesn’t matter which you do. The idea is to encourage him to try crossing the tarp even if he leaps it initially. As he gains confidence you can unfold the tarp step at a time so that it gets bigger incrementally. That way you are breaking the challenge into small bite sized steps that will gain his confidence.
When you asked him to back up be was quite draggy, so you firmed up. The idea was fine, but did you get a change of thought before you quite asking? It looked to me that when you stopped asking him to back he was still quite draggy. But how can you check if you got a change of thought or not? Well, you could ask him to back again and if it takes anything more than a polite ask from you, then you didn’t get Deisha to change his thoughts about resisting. Unless you get a change of thought there is no point in asking and expect he will learn from it.
I’m not sure why you bumped him with the rope. Was it to get him to stop leaning? If so I don’t think it was fair and I don’t think he changed his idea.
2.31 – 2.38
Deisha veered to his left to avoid the tarp and your response was to back him up with a fair amount of pressure. Why? To me this appears to be punishing the horse for an evasion because backing him up had nothing to do with helping him feel he could try to put a foot on the tarp. As he veered away from the tarp, just block it and get him centred again. Make it clear what it is you want. Block what you don’t want, so when you have blocked his evasions he is left with what you do want. Backing was not what you wanted, so why present it to him? I can only think of it as a punishment.
2.50 – 3.52
You did great at giving him the time to explore and blocking his attempt to evade through his shoulders. I was very happy to see how well you did.
3.53 – 3.58
Notice how much more settled Deisha about your petting. Also you were much more aware and respectful of him in the way you petted him than in the previous video. Well done.
3.58 – 5.06
I have nothing much to add. This segment look pretty good and you did a good job of getting him to try to the tarp.
Alison sent me an email with some questions (in italics). Below are my thoughts. At 2.13min I felt that Deisha was refusing to acknowledge the rope and I wanted to break his thought of leaving for greener pastures. I asked him to focus on the activity and I felt him switch off and then start to lean away from me. Assuming I'm right ( and one should never assume!!) how would you suggest I deal with this?
I saw his thought begin to leave and noticed a slight shift of weight backward. But I felt you over reacted. I probably would have done much less like perhaps cluck with my tongue or slap my leg a little. I think your response was more than what was needed to get him to re-focus. But even if I man wrong, there is no harm in doing less because you can always get bigger if you don't get a change. But if you do too much at the beginning, you have been unfair and it can't be taken back. Any time we do more than we have to we confirm to our horses that we can not be trusted to keep them safe.
Again, at 2.31-2.38 I asked for a try and what I got was an avoidance. How would you have handled this??
Here too I think you did more than was necessary. I would have held firm and given as little ground as I could and waited for him to come off the pressure. Act like a fence post that he is tied to and when he leans forward again, ease of the pressure. Remember, the goal of these exercises are to get him to be better on the lead rope and having his thought directed. The goal is not to get him over the tarp. If that was the aim I would suggest you get your cameraman to come behind Deisha and use a whip to scare him over. But since the aim to get him softer to the lead rope, wait until he gives to the lead rope.
I warn you Alison, that I have some serious criticisms of you and I am not going to sugar coat it for you. But I hope you’ll accept it with the intent it is meant – to help you make some good changes in yourself.
From the clip it appears there is a constant argument going on with Deisha about the role each of you plays in this relationship. At no point in the video did I see where you and Deisha had the same idea. You were always trying to make him do something and he was always trying to do something different. Even when he did do what you asked there was not a change of thought on his part – he still wanted to do something else. In this way you were really annoying him and begging him.
The nips are Deisha’s way of telling you that he is not happy and you are not getting it. They are not mean, but they are a clear signal that you are not meeting your obligation of leading this partnership.
The problems in the video have nothing to do with the bridge. He just does not want to be part of what you offer and he does not lead well. If he led better the bridge would be irrelevant.
I think your biggest problems are two fold. First you constantly beg and plead with him to go along with your idea of going over the bridge. You are not clear where the boundaries lay. Secondly, you are often very late in correcting Deisha. Often he is already committed to what he is going to do by the time you think you should correct him. You need to be earlier.
I’ll go through the clip and try to point out examples of what I mean.
0.0 - 0.11
Deisha’s thoughts are not with you. He is dragging his feet to both back up and come forward because he is annoyed and wants to deal with you as the source of his annoyance. Deisha has had a lot of handling in his life and if he were going to be that draggy I’d have had a fit. He lacks focus and clarity in these tasks and that should not be. He puts very little effort into his job because you are allowing him to be lost in his thoughts about how hard it is to go back and come forward. Don’t give him the time to go there. Tell him you want him to back up NOW and come forward NOW – not when he can manage to find the time after he has tried to nip to let you know he’s not interested.
0.11 – 0.19
While you are talking to the camera he is mouthing your hand and pushing against you. Don’t allow that. Interrupt it by doing something like slapping your leg or stomping your feet or anything that gets a change of thought. If you can’t keep tabs on him enough to monitor his mouthiness, then simply don’t let him be close enough to you to be able to mouth you. Put a metre gap between you and he and don’t let him encroach into that space.
0.19 – 0.43
You are asking Deisha to come forward, but he leans on the rope and hardly moves. You ask, release and ask, release and ask, release over and over again with little change in Deisha thinking about coming forward. At his stage of life and with the amount of handling Deisha has had, you should not be begging him to come forward. He knows what you want. He is not afraid of the bridge. He just has other things he’d rather do. It’s time for a wake up call for Deisha. Ask him very politely to come forward and if he is late in moving or leans against the lead rope have a melt down on him – go Chernobyl – upset his day. You have to give him a reason to change, which in this case means turning his world on its head. Let him know that listening to you and making a “try” is important. Don’t worry if he initially runs back or rushes over the bridge at a great rate of knots. Just get him to listen to you when you ask for forward. He needs to be soft and responsive first before worrying about how well he walks over the bridge.
0.43 – 0.47
When he did come forward he barged right through you. You never got him stopped and had to instead turn him. He never halted. Again, you are not being clear enough to him. Your fuzzy command to stop is a stress in his life. This is all part of where the annoyance comes from which is what causes the nippiness. Be clear and be definite. “Sort of…” is not good enough for Deisha. If he had tried to barge through me like he did you, I would have used the lead rope with such determination that he’d have considered jumping backwards over the bridge as an option. It would be so clear to him how to respond when I asked something that he would never have to stress about what was the answer that would keep life comfortable.
0.52 – 1.03
You asked him to come forward and he slammed on the brakes. Not okay. When he tried to go backwards at 1.00, you went with him and allowed it to happen. You gave him no reason why he would think that was a bad idea. He is not worried about the bridge, so you are not dealing with a genuine fear of walking over the bridge. It is simply a failure of knowing how to lead well. By allowing him to back off the bridge so easily you confirm in his mind that you are not clear what you are asking him to do and that what you ask is not really something he has to give a lot of importance to. You are adding to his concern about you as leading the partnership. It comes back to why he tries to nip you. You are like a fly that won’t go away no matter how many times he tries to swipe at you.
1.03 – 1.13
You approached Deisha to straighten up before stepping onto the bridge. He tried to nip, you forgot to get him straight and then tried to ask him forward. What happen to your intent of getting him straight? It went out the window. You did not follow through with what you asked. He got annoyed and you backed off. You confirmed in his mind that resistance is not futile and if he keeps trying to nip you lower the pressure. Who is leading whom?
1.13 – 1.17
He did not come forward. When he backed off you did little more than watch it happen. There was very little effort on your part to say NO to Deisha and change his thought from backing to forward.
1.21 – 1.24
You asked Deisha to step back, but instead he went more sideways with his shoulder than stepping his hindquarters back. Nevetheless, you released the pressure for the side step even though you asked for a back step. I consider this a lack of clarity. You should have insisted on him taking a step backwards no matter how much he travelled sideways.
1.27 – 1.33
As Deisha came onto the bridge he was looking to his left. His thoughts were never on you or the where he was walking. That’s why he drifted off the bridge to the right. If he had been focused on you more he would have followed his thought down the centre of the bridge.
This part is also an excellent example of how late you have been in correcting Deisha’s mistakes. Deisha mentally leaves at 1.28, but you don’t correct him until 1.32. It took 4 secs for you to see it was going wrong and do something about it. You need to try to be earlier. The later you are the more confirmed he will be in carrying out his mistake.
1.35 – 1.43
You begged and begged Deisha to back up, but stopped asking before you got a change. He leaned on you and did nothing about it. You need to try to be more vigilant. It may seem small stuff to us, but for our horses it defines our relationship.
That’s about all I have to contribute for now. If you have any questions, please let me know.
WOW! But thank you. It was interesting, when I looked at the clip, I saw exactly what you said. I was slow, ineffective and insipid. I have a whole lot of excuses running through my head but the horse isn't interested in excuses and they won't help so I'll ditch those.
I'll send another clip to you in a week or 10 days - you will find it vastly different.
Can you give me some ideas of activities Deisha and I can do to challenge ourselves. He genuinely enjoys(ed) the interaction but I struggle to come up with new concepts.
Thanks for the wake up call, Ross.
Here is another video lesson of Shelley and her horse Blue. Shelley has had issues with loading Blue into a float and this clip was sent to me for assessment.
If you have any questions regarding the lesson, feel free to ask.
I’m sorry it’s taken so long to respond, but I’ve had a good look at the clip a couple of times and here are my thoughts.
It hard to be precise about what I would do in your place because from my desk I can’t feel what you feel on the rope. But it seems to me that your horse is not particularly worried about going in the float. Sure he probably would rather not, but I don’t feel it evokes a survival response from him. That being said I think you could expect a little more try from your horse. I sense you are accepting the same level of try from him that you might have accepted when he was more worried. I don’t think that is necessary right now and you could ask him to make a bigger effort.
I see that you make it a bit too easy for him to do his own thing. If you firm up and tell him he needs to make a bigger effort to go in and stay in until asked to come out, it might get messy at first because you are upsetting the world he knows. But if you don’t get a change in his thought, the decision to go places with your horse will depend on his mood. It won’t get better and you’ll be reliant on whether feels like loading is a good idea or not on that day.
I suggest you work at improving Blue’s forward response to a feel on the rope. Several times during the clip he would ignore your first request to move and you had to back it up with more pressure. If you could get this better it would help you a lot.
0.21 – 0.32
You asked him to walk into the float and he did. He stopped halfway into the float and you gave him time to think about the next step. That’s all okay. But at 0.32 he started to back out of the float without your invitation and you did nothing to discourage him backing out. I think this was a moment I would have put more pressure on him to stay in the float. Even if it caused him to blast backwards, I would like him to give more consideration to whether he needed to back out or not. If he needs to come out, that’s okay. But if just feels he has done enough and that’s all you’re getting, then you have to help him find a better try to be with you – which means staying in the float. He showed me no sign that he HAD to get out.
0.32 – 0.43
I think you were very late in asking him to walk up the ramp again. He needs to learn the float is the good place to be and the ground is the not as good. It would help is you tried to make backing out not so easy and being out not so pleasant, while going in and staying inside the float was a much better deal. I would not give him so much time before asking him back in the float. The moment I had my rope organized I’d be asking him to load in again.
0.43 – 0.55
He went into the float fine. But when he stopped and put his head down you flipped the rope to get him to lift his head. This blocked any chance of you getting him to think about forward again. Just send him forward and his feet will get him to lift his head. If he is going forward he is not so stupid that he’ll bump into the chest bar with his head.
0.55 – 1.10
He basically stopped and settled halfway into the float and said “that’s enough,” before coming out again. I think you need to be clearer that he needs to offer more before he gets to back out. You could have tapped his rump repeatedly until he stepped forward a step or two. Or you could have walked into the float, stood by his head and taken the lead rope to lead him forward. You don’t have to stay outside all the time. If it takes being inside the float and you leading him for him to get the picture of going all the way, then that’s what you do. I know some people believe it is dangerous to be inside the float with a horse, but I don’t see any danger with your horse. I would do that if I felt it would help.
1.10 – 1.18
Again you allowed him time to come out and look around instead of putting some pressure to discourage coming out of his own accord. You should try to make it less easy for him to back out.
1.18 – 1.21
I’m not sure what happened there. I sense you tried to correct something – whether he was going to put his head down or was going in crooked. But you stopped him. When he took a step back you stopped and petted him and I’m not sure why.
1.27 – 1.32
You backed him out another step then turned around and walked him away. I wouldn’t do that. I’m not sure why you wanted to take him away. I would probably have asked him to go back into the float. But you decided to quite for a bit and you have your reasons. But I would urge you not to spin him around to walk away. I’d like you to keep backing him down the ramp and even a couple of steps after the ramp. If you get in the habit of turning him around as he is coming off or even when he is at the base of the ramp you run the risk of teaching him to come off crooked as he is looks to the moment to turn around. Try to avoid turning him away from the float until he has backed a few steps away from it.
1.40 – 1.42
You asked him forward and then flipped the rope to stop him. I’m unclear why you did that. You did it at the start of the clip too and again I was unsure why. I assume it was because he was crooked???
1.45 – 1.49
You asked him to backup by jiggling the rope. When you flipped the rope firmly he put more effort into throwing his head up than he did to shifting backwards. This is a resistance. It is the same resistance we see when you ask him forward the next time and many times throughout the video. Don’t ignore those little braces. If he threw his head up and the feet were stuck, take a little time repeating the exercise until his softness improves.
1.50 – 2.59
Twice more you load him and twice more he only attempts to go in halfway and twice more he chooses to back out and twice more you allow it to happen without any discouragement.
So far in the clip you have attempted to load him 4 times and he has made no extra effort or improvement. You should be asking yourself at what point is enough, enough. Considering how low his stress level is and how little concern he has for the exercise, I think you are well and truly at that point here.
Again you turned him away from the float instead of backing him out.
So much that follows is a repeat of what I have already observed and commented about.
You bumped him with the rope as he was going into the float and I’m unclear why. It stopped him in mid stride. Can you explain why you did that?
I noticed several times during the clip that you’ll lift the lead rope to interfere with something, but it is unclear why eg 5.07, 5.38, 6.12, 6.20.
I hope this helps and please don’t hesitate to get back to me if you have any questions.
Since I last saw you with Nicky in October 2011, there has been a huge improvement. You have clearly done a lot of work to keep her focused and reduce the mental departures that caused her to rush so much. She is much more settled and with you than she was 6 months ago. I’m really proud of you for that.
Nevertheless, there is still so much more work to do. So let’s start…
I really like the length of rein you use when you are not asking anything of Nicky. Your rein is long enough to stay out of her way and not bother her, but short enough that you can quickly adjust it’s length as you need to.
Often your position is a little out of kilter with your horse. Your legs often are too forward and as a result you sit behind the centre of gravity and get left behind. Ideally, you should sit as close to Nicky’s centre of gravity as you can. As a guide to consider your position, imagine as you sit on Nicky that suddenly she was whipped out from under you. As you hit the ground in your riding position, would you land on your face or land on your bum or land on your feet. You want to feel like you would land balanced on your feet – not feeling that you would topple forward or backwards. If you can keep that in mind it can help you find a balanced position in the saddle.
To me these things are signs that she is steering around the corner, but not carrying herself around the corner. I might think about holding the turn with the inside rein until she lifts a little in her front end and actually focuses around the corner.
0.12 – 0.14
She comes out of the turn quite hollow, so you know she is tight through her topline. Again, continuing the turn may have helped her relax her topline.
The transition to trot also indicates her anxiety. You asked for more walk, but her tightness won’t allow her to stretch and lengthen in the walk. For Nicky, it makes more sense to trot rather than put more effort into the walk. You did fine to interrupt and block the trotting.
Nicky trotted and you allowed her to maintain the trot. She was too tight to be able to get a decent trot, so I would have continued to work on the walk and have her relaxing downward. I wouldn’t have let her trot just yet.
The way she jumps into the trot suppose the supposition that she is very tight and is not thinking forward in her walk - all the more reason to have kept working at the walk until she got more relaxation and a freer walk.
In the trot she becomes even hollower and her head goes up. If you were going to let her trot, it might have been a good idea to use your inside rein to bend her until she let go of her topline and relaxed through her back.
0.21 – 0.25
You had the right idea to ask Nicky to bend to the right and make a corner. But at 0.25 you let her go straight again without getting a softening through her back or a god bend in her body. You got a change of direction, but not a change of thought. Remember one of my most often used mantras; the only change worth having is a change of thought – all the rest is wallpaper.
0.33 – 0.39
As you being your turn, your outside hand comes up to keep a contact. It comes up even more towards the end of the turn when Nicky drifts so strongly to the left. Keep your hand down and let go of the contact of the outside rein. Also try to avoid leaning so much to the inside. You do both these things on and off throughout the video.
0.33 – 1.12
In every turn, you release the inside rein while Nicky is hollow and with her head up. Try to ignore the direction she is pointed when you release the inside rein. You don’t have to complete a circle or a corner. Release the rein when she is stretching down and relaxing her back rather than where she is pointed. You seem to feel you have to rider her somewhere, but right now I’d like you to give higher priority to how she is feeling and where she is thinking rather than where she is pointed. Release for the softening and forget about whether she has done a full turn or full circle.
1.21 – 1.24
When you pick up the reins to bring her back to the walk, she pushed against the reins and raises her neck. I would do my best to discourage that. My first thought would have been to bend her with one rein until she walked with her head down. But alternatively, you might have carried the feel down to the halt and back up (if necessary) until Nicky yielded softly to your hand.
You seem to feel the task was to get Nicky to walk. But I would like you to think that the task was to get her to soften to the feel of the reins and if she happened to walk that was good too. It is like your circles. You seem to feel that doing a circle is the object of the circle when in fact it is to get her to yield to the reins.
1.32 – 1.45
You did great in blocking her trotting. I would really try to discourage her jumping into the trot. If she does hop, block her with the reins and immediately push the walk more forward. Instead of trotting, try asking her for a bigger and bigger walk. Block instantly any attempt to trot until she hits a good forward walk. When you get that she will fall into the trot in a more relaxed way. But don’t let her trot until her walk is freer.
She jumped into the trot and you let her go on trotting. Shame on you! I’m going to tell your daughter on you. You’re in big trouble now lady!!
1.51 – 2.34
I have a couple of things to point out here.
The main one is that you almost never got a bend in Nicky through any of the turns. She was stargazing around. If she had a Nikon around her neck I would swear she got off a tour bus. As I said earlier, your priority should be Nicky’s bend, softness and change of thought, not the feet coming around a corner. When the softness to the bend is correct, the turns will be correct.
The other thing is that are often leaning into the turns and you also lead with your inside shoulder. This is because your pelvis is blocked when you turn. Try to relax your body and keep your hips and shoulders parallel with Nicky’s shoulders. Also, you are lifting your outside rein. Relax it and let it be loose. There’ll be a time when you will want to use it, but not now.
2.35 – 2.40
You did a good job at recognizing Nicky was pushing forward in the halt. And you did great to discourage her form putting her head too low to hide away from the pressure of the reins. But you also leaned back and pushed your legs forward into the stirrups too much. This means you stiffened your pelvis and lower back. Try to relax your lower back and pelvis and let your legs hang with no extra weight in the stirrups. This will help keep you in much better balance with Nicky if she decides to reef the reins - she won’t be able to flip you forward.
Also, when you released the reins I would have asked her to soften again to them before walking forward. I feel she gave you a very reluctant half-hearted softening when I know she could offer something a little more substantial. So I would have released the reins as you did - which was fine – but then asked again to soften. If I had to back her up again to get her to stop pushing, I would have. I would have repeated this over and over again until she gave me a yielding from the moment she felt me touch the reins. Then I would have walked her forward – but not before. It’s a matter of getting a real change in a horse rather than Nicky just throwing you a bone to keep you off the reins.
2.57 – 3.03
Well what can I say here? At 2.57 she tried to hop into the trot and then at 3.03 she actually offered a smooth transition into the trot. What was the difference?
She was thinking far more forward as you brought her around the corner. You can see this by the way that her trot was much freer than previously. The feel you put on the reins as you raised your hands and brought them forward caused her to lower her neck slightly and relax through her back. When she came around the corner she was looking to go somewhere. In fact at 3.08 she was so forward that you got left behind in the saddle for a moment.
3.08 – 3.26
The trot was much softer and forward. The sneeze she gave was pretty soft.
Again, you let her off the reins too early and cheaply. She didn’t bend or look around the corner before you released.
I have seen you do much better attempts at hindquarter yields.
Your left rein was too long and needed shortening. Your transition from a direct rein (hand out towards your knee) to an indirect rein (hand close to your body and upwards) was too abrupt. It needed to be smoother and she needed more time to get arranged.
She did not stop walking forward. Her forehand continued to march forward causing her to pivot around her centre instead of around her forehand. This caused her to lean on her outside shoulder when I’d like to have seen her shift her weight towards her hindquarters more.
3.55 – 3.59
The same things I said about your previous halt apply to this one too.
3.59 – 4.08
I want you to stop here and watch the next couple of seconds of the clip 3 or 4 times. This is really important and it has happened several times in the clip. So pay attention here.
After Nicky backs up you ask her to walk on. But the moment she shifts her weight forward her mind leaves. Can you see that? I cannot over state the importance of you being aware of this. It tells you a lot about how she feels. It also says a lot about your relationship in that a lot of what you do with Nicky is to interrupt a thought she already has. One day you’d like Nicky to be waiting for you to offer her an idea, but right now she already has an idea and you often get in the way of it. It is something to be aware of. But don’t get paranoid about it because where Nicky is in her training is just part of the process. You work on getting her to stay tuned into you, but don’t drive her nuts so that she thinks she can do nothing right.
A much better halt. My only criticism would be that you could have asked her to shift her weight back a fraction.
4.42 – 4.51
The whole trip you let her trot around like a llama. I’d encourage you to be more proactive with your inside rein in asking her to lower her neck and soften her back. This is why her trot gets so short and choppy as times.
4.51 – 4.57
You ask for a circle at 4.51 and released your rein at 4.57, but she actually softened to the rein at 4.55. You should have released at 4.55 instead of waiting to complete the circle at 4.57. The good news is that you didn’t lift your outside rein.
Much better halt and release.
Notice when you applied some leg that Nicky tossed her head. This was because she had her thoughts elsewhere and it didn’t feel good for her to get bumped. It might have been a good idea to interrupt the head toss at this point and then asked her forward once again. It’s a matter of asking her to be more ‘with you’ in preparation of anything you might ask of her.
Again you asked her forward and she tossed her head. She was counter bent too. I would like you to think about having her more ready when you ask something of her. It’s like she is in the middle of something important to her and you keep interrupting her. Give her a reason to be with you – get her a little mentally busy. Some people would talk about a half halt here – and that would be fine, but what is important is to get your horse ready before asking something of her.
5.15 – 5.30
This is one of the most forward trots she has given you. She is still a little hollow, but forward and her feet are hitting the ground a little softer, which is a sign she is not as tight through her back. You could insist on this trot a lot more during the riding and not just when you are thinking about cantering her.
5.30 - 5.33
A good transition into the canter. The canter is forward, but not rushed. Very good.
5.33 – 5.39
The downward transition is not good. She braces into the reins and her trot is running away. You are hanging onto the reins hoping she will offer a more relaxed trot, but you are not getting a change. I suggest you be a little more definite about her coming back to you and not just coming back to the trot. She is leaving, so you could tell her “NO”. Be clear and tell her that her job is to stay with you – Nicky can handle the truth. Don’t hang onto the reins and get no change.
5.51 – 5.55
Again you bent her to the left, should have released your reins at 5.53, but didn’t until 5.55. Is it because you had to complete the circle or because you didn’t feel her soften until 5.55?
6.07 – 6.12
Nicky was holding back against your leg and you did fine at encouraging her more forward. You got a little tight in your body and your legs, but you kept yourself forward, your hands down and your reins long. It was good.
6.12 – 6.25
The trot transition was hollow and tight, but that’s okay. It’s expected she would do that after resisting going forward. Nevertheless, when she made the canter you kept out of her way and allowed her to flow. She gave you a good canter for where she is right now. Be proud of her and yourself. As her transitions improve and she can hold the canter in a bend, you can work on getting her to soften across her back.
6.27 – 6.36
Bring your outside rein down. Lifting your outside rein is a bad habit you have developed.
6.37 – 6.55
Tell me where you think Nicky was thinking in that left turn? A tighter turn or a quality hindquarter yield until she brought her thought around to the left may have been called for here.
6.58 – 7.04
Not a good hindquarter yield. She walked through her forehand and never really gave to the rein. Notice how she twists her head at the poll rather than keep her head perpendicular. This is because she is braced in the neck against the rein. Also notice that as soon as you release the rein she snaps her head back to the right – like her neck was on a spring. This is because she is thinking to the right rather than to the left where the rein was directing. Remember the purpose of the hindquarter yield is not to simply make her disengage her hindquarters, but to get her to mentally let go of her resistance to the reins.
7.07 – 7.13
I repeat what I said in the paragraph above.
7.30 – 7.48
Again you seem to release the inside rein when the feet change direction, but there is no change on the inside of Nicky. You have heard me say that the reins should one day become something that a horse feels comfortable about. They should offer reassurance and remind a horse that you are there to guide her through the trouble. But this is only possible if you use the reins to evoke an inner change in the way a horse feels towards them and not just using them as a steering wheel.
7.50 – 7.56
As you asked Nicky to go forward, she got worried and her trot became anxious and rushing. You did great to bend her and ask her to soften to the left rein. It was exactly the right thing to do.
8.08 & 8.09
There were a couple of failed canter transitions. That’s okay. It doesn’t matter.
8.09 – 8.13
But what does matter is that I feel you let her rush for too far before bending her to slow down. She became quite worried about the failed transitions and then left the scene in a hurry at the trot. I think you let that go on too long. I would like to have seen you start bending her in the first couple of strides of the rushing trot. Try not to leave a horse worrying and tight any longer than you have to.
8.34 – 8.39
I honestly am not sure what you were trying for in that turn – hindquarter yield? circle? forehand yield? Try to be clearer because I’m sure Nicky was not sure either.
8.47 – 8.55
At around 8.47 you took a hold of the reins and you kept a hold through the whole canter. Try to relax a little more. The canter was okay, but it lacked the relaxation of the previous one. Then when Micky came back to the trot, she was rushing again. You could try asking for her transition down into the trot through a bend. That is when you want to ask for a trot again circle her using only the inside rein and allow her to come down into a softer trot by adjusting the bend on the circle. This will probably help her to not rush so much coming out of the canter.
9.05 - 9.12
Again you bend her to the left, she drops her head and relaxes a smidge at 9.09, but you keep bending her until 9.12. I think a pattern is emerging here.
9.18 – 9.24
That was not a hindquarter yield. It was just a tiny circle with Nicky leaking out to the right. Her thought never went left.
9.29 – 9.30
This was a good trot transition. You can see she has plans to be ahead. Nicky was going with a purpose, but not rushing somewhere and leaving you.
9.36 – 9.41
This is probably the best circle in the video. It’s not perfect, but it is better.
9.41 – 9.58
There is nothing I can say about those turns that I have not already said.
There is so much that has improved since I saw you in October that I can’t tell you how excited and proud I am of you. You are seeing much more and feeling much more. Sometimes I wish you were a little earlier in your intervention when Nicky leaves you or gets lost in her own thoughts. You seem to let it drag on for too long before doing something about it.
It may seem like I picked on you on every second of the video, but I figure that’s my job. Nevertheless, you are doing terrific and should feel great about the job you are doing.
Things to work on when I see you in May will be:
I hope I have given you plenty to think about and work on. There is a lot going on in the video and even though it probably seems I picked on a lot, there are few things that didn’t get a mention. But I figure I have probably overwhelmed you with my list for now. It is a video worth watch many times with a print out of my comments in your hand.
If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for sending the video and for allowing me to include it on my web site. I have no doubt others will learn from it too.
I’ll be away for most of May and all of June, so I’m trying to get things organized to make life as easy as possible for Michèle. I hope to have cut enough firewood to last the winter before I go. All the paddocks need slashing (about 60 acres takes about 10 days of solid tractor sitting). I have to pull down an old pergola that is likely to fall down before I get to it. I need to have finished 4 articles for different magazines. I am trying to compile and edit 30 plus stories for my next book. And I need a new pair of socks! I’m tired just thinking about it.
Video Lesson - Louise and Sally
Louise is a long time friend and one of my earliest clients – which makes her about 105 years old even though she only looks 30. For many years Louise had a string of difficult horses that caused her to stagnate a little in her horsemanship. But then about 2 -3 years ago she found Sally – a Standardbred mare that had raced and later rescued by a mutual friend. While Sally has given Louise many challenges she has also allowed Louise to grow in her horsemanship. Sally was a habitual rushy horse. She carried deep-seated worry that meant she could not trot or canter with calmness. If she was interrupted by the reins she would twist her neck and and throw her head up – which you’ll see pop up time to time in the video. But Louise has made terrific progress with Sally by being disciplined in herself about offering a clear change in the horse. While the clip is by far not the best example of their work together, it does give an opportunity for people to observe and learn about discipline, consistency and clarity.
I really appreciate Louise allowing me to post her video. PS: you should probably turn the sound off because there is a lot of wind noise in the clip.
You know I am going to say I’ve seen you do better. The video reminds me of how Sally was 18 months or more ago (with less rush in her now). But I have not previously seen what she is like at home and you always said she was better when you came to us for a lesson that when you ride her at home. But I wonder if this is because you are less clear at home. It seems there are many times in the clip that you are quite fuzzy in what you are asking of Sally and you stop asking her for something before she really comes through. You release your aids when she makes a sort of half-hearted try and not wait longer until she makes a change of thought.
The other issue that stands out to me is how lacking in forward she is throughout most of the clip – especially the first 2/3. She does rush sometimes when heading towards the other horse, but mostly she is holding back in her trot. This is why she trips on her back end at 3.23s.
0.0 – 0.10
Sally starts off with her neck braced and twisting at the poll. I suggest you instantly ask her for a right bend to encourage her to let go of the tension in her top line.
0.10 – 0.13
You ask for a leg yield with a bend. Sally does step her shoulder to the left, but her topline remains tight and her head still high when you release the right rein. I would like to see you hold the bend with your right rein until she melts into it as she lets go of the resistance in her topline.
Just before the trot transition, Sally gives you a good, free walk. This is the walk I’d like to see as being normal for her.
Again you ask Sally to bend to the right and step to the left, but release the inside rein while she is still braces against it. It’s great that you get a change in her feet, but you need to be attentive to how she feels about it and if she shows resistance, wait until she feels better and softens in her bend. By releasing just for a change in her feet you are only doing half the job and leaving her with bad feelings.
A really nice trot with a lengthened frame. I like how she stretches down and maintains her rhythm.
A good transition to the walk. She keeps her rhythm and energy through to the walk and maintains her posture. Good job.
0.43 – 0.48
When you ask for the trot her head flies up and she gets even more vertical and hollow-backed when you ask for the left turn. She cannot bend to the left because her back and neck are so rigid. Sally never really yields with her thought or her posture through the turn. I would like to have seen you continue the turn using only left rein until she stretched down again and looked to the left. Then release the rein no matter where she was pointed.
0.48 – 1.05
Sally maintains her rigid and high-headed posture. A circle to the left until she relaxed her mind and body would have been helpful here.
1.05 – 1.12
You ask for a turn left and did a good job waiting until she softened and relaxed her topline at the 1.09 mark. But at 1.12 she braced herself again and I think you could have asked for another bend to the left with your inside rein.
1.13 – 1.37
Sally is again very tight through her topline and you needed to do something about that. She also has lost her energy in the trot and the rhythm is up and down and her line is very serpentine and crooked. She doesn’t seem to know where she is going or for what purpose. She needs a clear job at this point to draw her attention back to you and where you are taking her.
1.38 – 1.44
When you ask for a circle she begins to relax again and stretch her frame. She also finds a more steady rhythm. But this only lasts as long as you are bending. As soon as you go back to a straight line she braces her topline and gets wiggly again.
1.46 – 1.58
No softness in her topline. No straightness. No impulsion. No bend in the corners.
1.59 – 2.01
When you used your left rein, Sally softened nicely into it.
2.02 – 2.06
The 2nd half of the circle her thought got dragged away from the turn (was your other horse to the right of the picture?). Your correction got in the way of her idea to drift to the right and she lost her softness. That would normally be okay, except that you released the inside rein and the turn before she once again softened. You are letting her off when her feet give, but not when her feelings change – that’s only half the job.
2.12 – 2.31
The attempted leg yield really didn’t work at 2.12. Again Sally was allowed to drift for too long with no energy, no line and a brace through her body.
2.31 – 3.00
The circle was a big help to getting Sally to soften. She held the softness for quite a long time and even though her right turn was not brilliant, she remained pretty relaxed until about the 3min mark. It was a nice change from a few moments earlier. I don’t think you would have got that if you have not asked for a circle at 2.31.
3.00 – 3.06
Another circle would have been a good idea here to build on the relaxation that you have been given with the previous circle.
3.11 – 3.15
You started a turn and Sally showed signs of relaxing
3.17 – 3.25
The moment you asked her to go straight she became tense, crooked and lost her impulsion again. This is why she tripped at 3.25.
4.24 – 4.44
The back up was not very soft – which I’m sure you know. Sally has backed up a million times and it should be better than that. When you stopped asking for the back up and started to ask her to step her forehand to the right, I think it was the wrong time. I would have asked her again and maybe again for a rein back until I felt her get ready the moment I began to adjust my reins. You stopped asking her to back up before she got to the point where she prepared and got off her forehand. She is not green and backing up is not new to her. I would like to see you more particular about how she gives to those reins at her stage of training. She will only get better if you insist on more try from her. This is part of the clarity that I talk so much about.
I couldn’t see the forehand yield because your photographer needs the sack (or at least be grounded even on non-school nights). But I bet if your back up were better, the forehand yield would have been better too.
The rest of the clip is more stuff that I have already discussed.
I think you need to be harder on yourself. I know for a fact that you feel a lot that goes on under the saddle. But I think you need to be more disciplined about helping your horse. You let too much go pass that you don’t need to and that keeps Sally from progressing in the fashion that she can. I’ve seen you be far more proactive and I’ve seen Sally respond well to it – so I know you can do it. It’s just a matter of effort.
For $49.95, I can sell you a 1hr voice recording of me saying things like, “Louise, you let her off too easily” and “get a change in her thought, not just her feet” and “be more clear” and “do you really think that was good enough?” and my favourite, “what the hell was that?” It will last you the whole lesson.
Oh and congratulations for riding on such a windy day. I know several riders who would not get on their horses in such strong wind.
Let me know if you have any questions.
This is from Louise after I sent her my review.
Hi Ross, Thank you so much for your review, you are dead right, it is just what I expected. I'm pleased to say that i think I have been working on these things to a small degree since this expert filming (carried out by the wonderful one and only Daniel Bonney, I had to cut out the parts of him in the clip for obvious reasons) I have decided that I would like you to post the clip on your site because I think you are right that it could help others to see where they need to hang in there longer for that change, etc. Not as pretty to watch as yourself riding, but it will do. I'm going to take some more time to review your review ,along with the footage a bit later, when I have more time, but just wanted to get back to you sooner than that. I am very interested in your comments about her stumbling or tripping, I had thought it because she needed her feet trimmed, but then I rode her at the indoor and she didn't do it once, and her feet weren't trimmed until afterwards. I will follow this up later with my new an improved riding skillls in another video at some stage. Cheers Louise
I hope you guys find the video lessons helpful and if so, you’ll send me your own clips for review.
I see several spots in the video that I can make suggestions (and I will), but they all point to the same single issue. That is, Ebony is getting very good at going through the motions, but the connection between the two of you needs to be stronger.
You will see quite a bit of head tossing and tail swishing from Ebony in the clip and I believe this stems from the fact that your idea and her idea are at logger-heads. It is an expression of her feelings that you hinder her from carrying out her thoughts. You have done a good job of getting her to be obedient, but there is more work to be done about getting her with you so that you are both on the same page, trying to do the same job.
0.0 - 0.10
The first 2 mins of the clip is all groundwork. The first 10 sec is not too bad, although I would like you to be a little clearer about drawing her thought to you (perhaps blowing a raspberry or a stomping of your feet etc) and less about pulling the lead rope to get her to look at you. The pull doesn’t really get a clear change in where her thought lies.
At 10 sec you ask for a change of direction. The mechanics of the change of the change of direction is quite good. Ebony follows the feel of the rein and shifts her weight to her hindend well – there is no crashing onto her forehand. But one thing here I will mention and which you can take as being repeated almost every time you do ask for a change of direction. That is, she does not check in with you during the turn. Ebony knows the routine for a change of direction – she can do them in her sleep – and she almost does. Instead feeling of you and checking in with you, she flips from one direction to the other with hardly a glance or slightest interest in having any attention on you. Her attention is on the routine of changing direction. What would have happened if in the middle of the turn you asked her to stop or to back up or turn back again? I can guarantee she would not have been ready or prepared and it would have bothered her a lot because you would have gotten in the way of what she thought she was suppose to do.
Try to remember that teaching a horse how to change direction is not the goal. The aim is to have her attention on you and prepared for anything you may ask – whether it is to change direction or come towards you or kneel down.
You should think about breaking up your routine because you do have a routine and it makes Ebony switch off from you. She knows the routine. Change the routine. Make it more unpredictable. But please remember to slow down as you do it. Slow your turns down and insist she check in with you. Slowing down will give her a chance to check in with you and be part of breaking her routine.
When she gets crooked as she does about here, don’t let her walk out of the turn crooked. Interrupt her and ask her to get an inside bend while stepping her feet to the outside (like a leg yield with a bend in it). Again, it’s part of her not being attentive to you or the line of the circle – she is just going through the motions, doing her own thing.
You did a good job of interrupting her trotting off.
Ebony gets very crooked and pushes away from you through the outside shoulder. Think about stepping her hindquarters over to the outside and then continue the circle. In this case, 1 step would have been enough, but sometimes if her thought is stronger to leave you might have to go to a full hindquarter yield until she softens. It will depend on what she presents. It would help if you could be a little earlier with your own presentation. It’s about getting her to think inside the circle and not outside as she is doing.
0.40 – 2.00
You wriggle the rope quite a lot when you want to change something or interrupt her. Which would be okay if you actually got a change. But the amount of energy you use in the rope never really gets any less. She is not learning to be more attentive and therefore you can use less energy. It stays pretty constant. That being the case, either change what you are doing or be a lot clearer to Ebony that the rope is important. Try not to keep annoying her with the same thing over and over. It is partly why she shakes her head, looks away and swishes her tail. I see that you start with a small request in the rope, but the level of firmness that you follow with is not getting a change of thought to her – she is not giving the rope anymore importance at the end than she does at the beginning.
2.03 - 2.46
I hope you can see that she is not happy about what is going on here. She looks away, her tail is too busy, and her head comes up when you rock the saddle and comes up again when you mount. Be aware of these things – they have meaning.
2.47 – 2.56
As soon as you turned her to the right she prepared to leave and pushed into the reins. Notice the twisting of the neck at the end of the turn. At this point you could have stopped her and asked her to soften to the reins. Get a softening and wait before moving off. I would not let her wander forward in the way she did because she was leaving mentally without the rider.
3.01 – 3.15
In those couple of turns, Ebony did not commit to turning – especially in the first turn. Notice her front feet are travelling to the outside as she finishes both turns. I would recommend you waited a little longer – even if she ended up facing the wrong way – until she gave you a stronger thought to the turn.
Again, this is part of why she gets so busy with her head shaking and tail swishing. You need to get a change of thought and not just get in the way of her thought.
Ebony was obedient to stopping when you asked, but the backing showed she again did not commit with her mind to going back. You could have held a little longer or repeated the backing a time or two more until you felt she really gave. This is shown by the fact that the moment you released the reins she pushed back into them. That was a moment where it would have been helpful to ask her to offer a back up again – and maybe even again – until she held the softness for a couple of moments and did not immediately push back onto her forehand and the reins.
I also think I would not have turned her to the left because she crashed on her forehand instantly in the turn. Knowing that she was pushing forward when you released the reins, I would have asked her to step forward and then see if she could soften to the reins into the forward – if not, I might have asked her to back up until she did soften to the reins. I would be picky that she did not walk out of a turn on her forehand like she did.
I’ll repeat it here again, but I won’t say much about it after this. You can take it as a given that in most of the turns Ebony does not follow the feel of the inside rein and does not raise her forehand. I would like you to think about waiting in the bend until you feel a real change in where her thought is directed and when that happens you’ll feel her shift a little weight towards the rear in order to unload her shoulders. If she just circles without trying to adjust her weight, try lifting the inside rein vertically to direct the hindquarters across and stop the forehand from drifting to the outside (but don’t apply outside rein or inside leg). You may have to do this quite firmly to begin with and even have her stopped altogether. It would be an exaggeration of the turn – but that’s okay for now (while she is learning). But as she gets the picture about the meaning of the inside rein, you’ll be able to do less and get more from her.
You stopped her feet and released the reins as Ebony pushed into them. Bad, bad Amanda – report for detention!
Again, at the trot you release the reins in the turn without her giving to the inside rein. Ebony leans on the outside and pushes to the outside of the turn, but you release the reins as soon as you feel she is pointed in the direction you wanted, without her having a change of thought. It is the same problem at the walk, but bigger at the trot.
This was the best yet of Ebony giving to the inside rein. Not perfect, but better. Her shoulder still drifted a smidge to the outside.
The change of direction was very crooked. Before you change direction, think about slowing her down and using more right rein and right leg to encourage her to bend to the right. Do not let her make the change of direction counter bent as she does. If you have to stop her and ask for the correct flexion, do so. But don’t let her rush through the turn crooked in the way she is. This is also true of most of your change of directions at the trot eg 5.46
As Ebony goes to trot you pull on the reins to bring her back to the walk. But Ebony pushes into the reins and you release them without waiting for her to soften to the reins. You released the reins because she came back to the walk, but you should have waited until she stopped leaning on the reins. A major function of the reins is to tell a horse to soften. They are not simply for directing the feet alone – they are also meant to direct the emotions of the horse. By releasing the reins while she was still leaning on them, you are teaching her to lean and again this is why she gets bothered when you use them to direct her.
The forehand yield was okay, but I might have asked her to step over and wait; with her still being lifted in front. She has a habit of stepping her shoulder across and then crashing on her front end instantly. Try and encourage her to hold her posture for a little longer. It is becoming a bad habit for her to load up her shoulders.
I don’t think I need to go on because most of the remainder of the clip would be repeating what I have already said.
Count how many times Ebony stops or backs up while pushing forward. Count how many times she does not yield her thought to the inside rein. Count how many times she gets counter bend in her turns. These are the things I would be asking you to focus in your ridden work.
Thoughts About Your Riding
You are sitting much straighter than you use to – so well done. And you don’t drop your inside pelvis in the turns nearly as much as in the “olden days.” So I’m very pleased to see you riding better.
I still think you clamp with your lower legs too much and I’d like to see if riding an extra hole longer would help. But in any case, keep thinking about letting your lower legs just hang like rope. They should lay against a horse and not grip him.
You sometimes fuss with the reins. I know that you are actually trying to correct Ebony at times by bumping her with one or both reins. But in fact because you are not achieving a change of thought, you are just fussing. You should either be a lot clearer or leave them alone entirely. When you ask for something with the reins, give it a clear meaning to her. But otherwise get them out of her face.
Don’t worry about the tail swishing or the head tossing or chewing the bit because as she feels better they will all dissipate in time. So don’t spend time trying to deal with those things.
I think you are gradually slowing down more over time. But there is more you can do about doing less.
If you have any questions (and I know you always do), let me know.
If other folks would like a video lesson, please post a short clip on YouTube and send me the link. The first lesson is free. You can also request that your lesson is kept private and confidential so it won’t appear on the web site.
Alright, here's a very brief bit of footage ( about 1:45 ) but it shows something a little bit tricky with a horse I've done some work with over the last few months. It was filmed on my phone, so it's not great quality and it seems to have gone a bit stop-motion in the upload, but hopefully it will suffice. Also I always hate to see myself riding, but I guess I keep the horse between me and the ground sufficiently in this case.
I've got a bit of walk and trot on each rein and a turn on the forehand to change direction. Well, I say turn on the forehand, really it's a turn on the middle, but we're working to change that. What I'm particularly interested in is the way that particularly on the right rein, she tries to bounce into canter rather than staying in trot. You can see these little bumpy strides and I'm not doing anything to ask for that, I'd be happy for us just to be trotting. She is dropping really hard onto that inside shoulder and I'm trying to support her with my inside leg. I thought the turns might be informative as regards her response to the leg in a more basic situation. The pattern is the same in rising or sitting trot.
In general she has a lot of problems with bending correctly and it can be a struggle to get more than a step of shoulder-in from her. She recently had a visit from the chiropractor (for the first time I think ) who found she was uncomfortable behind her pole and I'm sure she has a long term habit of bracing that joint. The treatment has helped and she is clearly more comfortable but she still carries herself in a similar way, either through habit or for some other reason. She can bend when asked on the rein at halt but she's very resistant to being asked to bend by her rider once moving. As you might imagine she prefers to canter on the left lead, whichever rein one is on when one asks her to canter, but that's not something we'll need to tackle until we have things sorted at lower speeds.
She also tends to be of the opinion that she has three gaits - walk, trot and canter and it is quite hard to persuade her to offer any variation within those gaits. I have no idea whether any of this is relevant - probably you'll see most of what you need to know from the video - but I figure the more information you have the better.
Thanks for the video clip. There are times when the sunlight obscures the image a bit and makes it hard to see what is going on between the two of you, but overall I get a picture of quite a lot of resistance to the reins both in terms of the stop or slow down command and the lateral bend.
I’ll go through the clip in sections and tell you what I see and then discuss what I might suggest you think about changing.
0.0 – 0.13
The horse twists his poll to the left. There is not much effort in the walk, but I notice that the going is fairly heavy in the arena too, which might contribute to the “lazy” walk.
0.14 – 0.18
When the horse transitions to the trot he throws his head slightly up. I suspect this is because she is not thinking very forward in the walk. At about 0.16 you’ve asked for a slowing down and the horse slowed for 1 stride and then kept going.
0.20 – 0.26
You used your reins with a firmer contact and the horse pushed into them. She really leans into the contact and at 0.23 she twists her head at the poll once again.
0.28 – 0.35
She is struggling with the reins and raises and lowers her head in an effort to find a place of comfort with the reins. She also drifts through the outside shoulder and when you try to correct it with more inside rein she leans quite heavily on the left rein.
0.37 – 0.43
Again she pushes into the reins as you ask for her to slow down. The chewing on the bit and the lifting of her neck are symptomatic of the struggle she has to yield to the reins.
0.44 – 0.47
Notice the horse reefs into the reins when you ask for the turn. The horse turns in the middle (as you have already said) where her front and her back end both move in the turn. This is because she is not balanced to turn off either her front or back ends. You need to get her to adjust her weight more to the back or the front depending on whether you want a turn on the forehand or hindquarters. The horse does not bend or look to the left when she is being asked to turn.
0.48 – 0.57
Nice transition from the halt. The walk could have more energy, but overall I nice transition and the horse is looking where she has been asked to go.
The trot to the right has similar issues as the trot to the left did. The transition to the trot was quite hard and braced which I again think is really a problem at the walk.
The “hippity-hop” at 1.01, 10.4 and 1.08 I believe are a symptomatic of the resistance to the reins. You hold quite a firm feel on the reins and I think it causes the horse to skip in her effort to go keep forward.
The transition down to the walk is crooked
You asked for a halt, but didn’t get it until you asked a second time and got a halt at 1.22.
In the rein back the horse came off the pressure with his mouth, but she hollowed her back and raised her neck, which is an indication of her resistance and evasion to the reins. Nice release of the reins when the horse yielded.
You use your legs when asking for the turn, but the horse confuses this with wanting to go forward and when you stop her doing that she goes backwards. She does not yet have a good understanding that the rider’s legs can be directional and she can move her hindend or forehand away in response to the legs. You can see the neck raise the hollowness in when you apply leg and block with your hands.
Things to Think About
She is a sweet mare who is doing her best, but struggles with some fundamentals. But she is kind and willing. You are doing a good job of encouraging the try in her and giving her time to sort out her searches. But I think you need to be clearer when you ask for something that you actually get a change. I think sometimes you ask for a change, but don’t get it and then keeping going hoping you’ll get a change next time.
Leaning on the Reins
If this were my horse I would begin with my focus on having her learn to soften to the reins. I would ride with a much longer rein that you do. You hands can sometimes be a little unsteady and this bothers her. So ride with plenty of loop in the reins when you are not asking anything of her. This should go someway to overcoming the twisting of the poll when she is trotting.
If she continues to twist at the poll interrupt it by asking for a turn using only the inside rein – absolutely no outside rein. When she stops twisting, release the inside rein and allow her to go wherever she is pointing – even if she is going the opposite way you wanted. Let her learn to associate that the reins leave her alone when she stops twisting her neck.
Many times, she stretches into the reins when you pick up the contact. Hold the reins steady and don’t release until she gives to them and comes of the pressure. You must be absolutely consistent to not release when she reefs or stretches into the reins. Have a look at 0.44-0.47 again and you’ll see what I mean.
In the backup, she hollows and raises her neck. Keep a feel on the reins or even add a slightly more feel until she softens to the reins. You may even have to back her feet and wait until she softens before you can release the rein pressure. Don’t release the reins just because her feet stopped – hold the rein pressure until she gives. You should feel the weight come out of the reins because she telescopes her neck, the mare should shift a little weight to her hind end and she may lift her back a fraction (but this may not happen at the start).
Also, the mare leans a lot on the inside shoulder. I know you are using inside leg to try to block her falling in, but it is not being effective. You could think about using less leg and more rein to lift the inside shoulder and ask her to carry it to the inside. You leg should lay against your horse, but your reins could both move to the outside – such that your inside rein lays more against the neck and the outside rein opens out to the outside. You must get her to step her shoulder over to the outside and if this means slowing her feet down to a walk or even a halt to do that, then slow her down. DON’T LET HER PUSH THROUGH THE REINS BY GOING FORWARD AND NOT OUT!
Once she has stepped her shoulder out – even a half-hearted try, let the reins go and leave her along. In other words, fix the mistake then let her go to make it again. Don’t try to hold her out on the circle. When she goes to fall in again, step the shoulder out with the reins and leave her alone.
Skipping at the Trot
I believe she does those hops because she is not going forward freely. I would give her more rein and urge her forward, but if she jumps into the canter, block it instantly and immediately send her forward at the trot. Keep sending her into a forward trot, but block the canter. This takes some good timing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. It is not a serious issue for her, so she’ll make good changes quite quickly if you can get yourself co-ordinated with sending her forward while blocking the canter.
Turns and Bends
This is pretty important.
She does not have much lateral flexion and she does not look where she is turning. I would forget about turns on the forehand or hindquarters for a while. Instead I would focus on hindquarters and forehand yields from just the feel of the reins along – at the halt, walk and trot. Don’t use your legs at all. Only use the inside rein. With the forehand yields your inside rein should open out towards your inside knee. You hold or tighten up until the mare looks to the inside and her inside fore leg steps to the inside.
With the hq yields, the inside rein comes closer to your belly button and the horse legs to the inside and the inside hind leg steps across the outside hind leg with a soft bend in the horse.
For both of these, only use the inside rein – no outside rein. If you struggle to feel the horse’s feet you may want help from spotter on the ground at first to tell you when the horse has stepped his feet correctly.
The forehand and hindquarter yields are fundamental to getting correctness in a horse when it comes to bends and influencing the feet.
My main focus at the start would be to work on the bends in a turn and softening to the reins. That means have loopy reins until you ask for something and when you do ask for something make sure you get the mare to soften to the reins and not just move the feet as you asked. She has to soften to the reins in everything she does. It may not be very much at the start, but in time she will give you a true self carriage.
Secondly, the bending in response to the reins is paramount. After you have a good handle on that you can go back to introducing your legs to turn your horse – but no until your horse can follow the feel of your inside rein with accuracy and softness.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
Reply from Ben:
Thanks - you've clearly taken time and paid close attention. That is very interesting. I tend to ride on a very long rein but I think this mare feels like she needs so much support that she's kind of lured me into riding shorter as I have worked with her. I have been trying to support that inside shoulder with the rein a bit as you described, but because she is so determined to counterbend and I wasn't thinking enough about making it effective it's not worked- my assessment would be that maybe that is something to work at once we've got a better bend because right now the main reason we're getting stuck is because of the more basic problems with flexion when she moves.
Do you think the confusion between using the leg for direction and just for forward might be contributing to the way she is trying to bump forward in trot? I had the idea that if she is running into my inside leg she might think that means "go faster" if she hasn't got it figured to mean anything else.
Should I be starting with trying to get her following the rein at a halt or in a walk? My instinct suggests that walk might be easier if I want her to move her feet because although she can yield laterally at halt I don't know whether she has quite enough try to look for it if I ask her for a step. I have done a bit of work on basic lateral flexion at halt to try and get her releasing that pole a little but because I haven't turned it into an ask for a step. If I've got her bending to the rein and I want her to take a step should I just set it up and wait? I wouldn't often use the indirect rein at halt ( as in asking for the hindfeet, seems everyone has their own term for it ) but aside from having to make sure she knows I want her to do something rather than just look at me dolefully I think it would work and I guess not moving to start with gives time to be sure that everything is right. I'm kind of trying to balance making sure there is time, with having enough life in my way of asking that she wants to look it. I'm sure I've been drawn into using my leg more than I usually would because she is resistant to the rein.
I've spent a long time working on feeling for the horse's feet so I've can make a guess at how I want those steps to feel and where the feet are most of the time. Normally I would use that timing to make it easier for the horse to figure out what I am asking for when I'm using the rein - do I need to avoid doing that if I'm concentrating on her yielding her neck to avoid giving a confusing release or ending up in a place where I'm getting the feet but not the head?
Thank you very much for your time,
I absolutely think that she believes your inside leg means to "go" rather than yield away. You can help this by asking her to yield to the inside leg at a halt or walk. But use your reins to insist on a bend and to not let her rush forward. Personally, I begin all my lateral work with no inside leg - just the reins. My legs are used only to encourage movement, but my reins tell my horse where to move. Once my horse can side step to the reins alone, I then touch my horse's sides with my inside leg and follow it with using the reins to side step. Pretty soon the horse understands that the inside leg is associated with a side step and you can do less and less with the reins. This approach gets a horse better on the softening to the reins and to the leg. But always insist on a lateral flexion and not have her body straight for a long time. Try not to make it happen with your leg. If she resists the leg you can either offer little niggling vibrations of your inside leg or you can firm up on the reins - but don't firm up on the leg with hard bumps or kicks that will cause her to brace through her body.
The other thing from what I saw on the video is that I would not be asking for lateral flexion and allow her feet to stand still. The mare has a broken connection between the reins, her mind, and her hindquarters. The reins do not directly influence the hindquarters with her. So for a long time, if you ask for flexion, insist that her hindquarters give to the reins. I discourage using inside leg here to make her move her hindquarters because it will do little to re-building the notion that the inside rein can direct the hindquarters. Instead of using inside leg you can either hold the flexion with the inside rein and wait until she prepares to move before releasing. But sometimes horses that have been taught to stand still will out wait you and go to sleep. In this case, ask for the flexion with the inside rein as you normally would and if after a short time you feel there is no try, lift the rein vertically (not backwards) to help unbalance her. Keep lifting until you feel her prepare to give, then release the rein. Repeat this until she feels your inside rein and as she goes to bend to the inside she is ready to step her inside hind foot across the outside hind foot.
When this gets good, it will go a long way to helping her straighten out and ride the line rather than dropping her inside shoulder.
I hope I have been clear enough. If not, please ask again.
Louise and Sally – August 29, 2012
0.7 – 0.12
Sally twists her head. I might have stopped her and asked her to soften. But since you have just started you could let it go and see if she improves. But keep in mind that the head twist indicates a problem – probably with the reins.
0.14 - 0.17
Sally braces against the inside rein and you release the feel before she gives to it.
0.19 – 0.32
I like the way you are using your inside rein to ask her to soften and she does. It’s good to see both your awareness and your approach to handling it.
0.33 - 0.45
Initially Sally backs up with a brace – her head comes behind the vertical and her feet remain a little stuck. But you do it again and again until she gives you a very nice softening to the reins and shifts her weight back. Really good job!
0.45 – 1.32
Sally fiddles a lot with both her postures and the bit. I think you might find she is less bothered if she had a better walk. Her walk is more a dawdle and lacks purpose. It might help if she had more impulsion at the walk as if she had to be somewhere.
Good transition to the trot. The trot has a nice rhythm.
Sally is crooked coming into the corner. This is something I see a lot in the clip where she gets counter bent. You need to prepare her a bit better and I’ll talk more about this later.
I like the moments of long and low, but they don’t last for more than a second or two and I think it is time to ask her to hold it longer. Again, I will talk about this later.
2.23 – 2.26
Counter bent and hollow on the circle.
2.38 – 2.40
Using too much outside rein and it keeps her hollow and braced against your reins.
Sally falls out on the turn through her shoulder.
3.11 – 3.21
Sally braced against your hands all the way through change of direction. You tried to get her to soften, which is good – but you allowed her to keep chuffing along bent and arguing with you. I might have shut her down and waited until she let got of her resistance before allowing her forward again. Don’t sacrifice correctness just so you keep her moving. If you have a resistance, deal with the feelings that are causing that before worry about what the feet are doing.
3.33 – 3.37
The downward transition to the walk was not very good. She was resistant and late in her response. You might think about going straight back to the trot and repeat the walk transition until she feels better and softens.
3.38 - 3.39
It is interesting that even though she fought the transition to the walk, she was resistant to go up to the trot again. It just shows you that her thoughts on are not on the job. Asking for a change from Sally is interrupting her from other thoughts. She is not with you enough.
4.01 – 4.05
Again the trot to walk to trot is not very good. Don’t let her get so hollow and resistant during these transitions.
Lots of nice moments of softness intermingled with moments of brace and crookedness. You might notice that she stretches down mostly when she has a bend or you use your inside rein. But Sally becomes high headed and hollow when you first ask something different from her – whether by interrupting her with your legs or reins.
4.53 – 5.00
It seems clear that in the moments of stretching downward she becomes more resistant to your legs. It’s like she can’t stay relaxed and go forward softly at the same time. Notice how bracey and hollow she gets when you insist on her responding to your legs.
5.02 – 5.08
Even though Sally was a little rushed, the canter transition was good for what I’ve seen in the past. I am so glad to see that.
5.08 - 5.47
That canter was so much better than anything I’ve seen from you two before that I am not going to criticize anything about it. Keep the canter mostly on the circle for a while and things will come together. I really enjoyed seeing the improvement.
5.48 – 6. 07
I was pleased to see she was not rushing when she came back to the trot. It was a good rhythm. But you do not get a score of 10 because you allowed her to drift out through the left shoulder at 6.05.
Drifting again at 6.11. It’s almost that you are so relieved that you survived the canter than you let your guard down when back at the trot.
6.18 – 6.25
Sally is running through the reins and you are allowing it to go on. Be clearer to her that the reins are never to be ignored.
6.38 – 7.07
The walk on a loose rein was okay, but be careful that she does not mentally go away, which she appears to have done here.
7.08 – 7.53
The forehand yields are bracey in the neck. You might think about breaking it down more into just asking Sally’s neck to soften and look to the left or right with her head perpendicular to the ground; and not move her feet. Just get her to let go of the fight in the way she uses her neck.
Also you do a good job of waiting and helping her to free up her forehand and shift her weight to her hind end. But when you release she immediately crashes forward again onto her forehand. Think about not allowing her to walk forward, but instead hold her weight on her hq without moving for a moment. You might even back her up and ask for a second and third forehand yield – waiting for the time she holds her withers up for just a second or two. If you always walk forward immediately after a forehand yield she will learn the habit of crashing forward as soon as she steps her forehand to the side. Eventually you can build on her holding herself more upright and walk forward carrying herself lighter in front.
8.57 – 903
You have done a really nice job with the rein back. It is such a nice improvement.
9.37 – 9.45
Your response to her reluctance to go forward from the rein back was not enough. Firstly, I might suggest you get firmer much sooner. And second if you had to kick her that hard then you should have insisted on a least a trot, not a doddle. After kicking her that hard I don’t think strolling along like she was walking through the park was an appropriate response. I’d like to have seen her shoot out of there like she was shot out of a canon and you were grabbing for your seat belt.
The walk transition was really crooked and you failed to fix it. These things are important, so please be vigilante.
10.07 - 10.16
The transition to the walk and rein back were pretty resistant. The back up was very crooked. I felt you left yourself off the hook too easily for that. Again be vigilante.
10.22 – 10.30
The same as before. You could do a lot more to help her.
10.34 – 10.58
You did much better with getting a response to your leg and to fixing the resistance in the rein back. Well done. You can see the improvement when you asked Sally to go forward again at 10.58.
It’s a terrific improvement over the performance in the last video clip. You have much to be proud about.
Two things I’d focus on.
First, very often when you change direction Sally gets crooked and braces through her neck. I think you should try to prepare her before the change of direction. It’s like she has mentally disconnected from you and when you pick up the rein she immediately braces as a reaction (like a reflex) because that’s what she does.
You can prepare her to get ready for a change of direction with perhaps a half halt or maybe lifting the inside rein vertically against her neck until she tips her thought to the inside and then follow with asking for the turn. You need to do something to tell her to get her mind back on the job and get ready for a new bend.
The second item is to start asking her to stay soft and low for a little longer than you have been. When she gets hollow and raises her neck, you keep asking her to relax and soften, which is great. But many time the moment you release the resin she immediately hollows and braces her topline again. This indicates to me that she is not really giving you a change and she is starting to learn the trick of dropping her head to a cue without really letting go of the feelings that cause her to brace.
So think about not releasing the reins the instant she lowers her neck and stretches her topline. Maybe hold a feel in the reins a little longer that if she decided to brace again she would run into them instantly. Get a step or two where she can maintain her lower posture and then release the reins. I don’t want you to hold her there, but just make the rein contact enough that if she raised her neck again she would run into the pressure and yield once more. Once you can get 1 or 2 steps, build on that to eventually 6 or 7 and then build until you get 20 or 30 etc.
You can even do this going from halt to walk. I notice that many times Sally throws her head up and hollows her back when you go to walk from a halt. She is ready to stay low and soft in the halt-walk transition. Get her soft in your hand at the halt, and then ask her to walk. If she lifts her neck and lowers her back, let her run into the feel of the reins and not let her walk until she is soft in your hand again before letting her walk. Don’t let her walk until she is soft. But when she is ready, let her walk for 1 or 2 steps with softness and then release and allow her to fall apart. Try again and again and again. Pretty soon she will come out of the halt with life and softness and hold it for as long as you like with no pressure form the reins. Then you can try it at the trot etc.
Anyway, that’s about all for the moment. If you have any questions let me know.