“(A) form of pressure that you exude is when you think you are in a contest of wills and you must always win. On the contrary, I believe we must strive to never fight with a horse. Our predator instincts could unexpectedly trigger inappropriate action – that is,  we might do the wrong thing, and it might harm our future abilities to be with and work with a particular horse. ”   ~ Sharon Wilsie, Horse Speak The Equine-Human Translation Guide

Training with dominance leads us to feel that we need to dominate.

Our actions are guided by our thoughts. If we think of our horses as needing to submit we will treat them differently than if we think of them  as students that we are responsible for instructing carefully and lovingly.


Children and Horses, 3

If training horses is like raising children…
No matter how we raise our children or train our horses it is guaranteed that they will embarrass us if people are looking.
Our horses can have a trick down. Perform it flawlessly time after time. As soon as we try to show someone they will have no clue what we are talking about.
Our children can be perfect little angels. As soon as we take them out in public they will scream and cry and fight.
It’s some kind of law I believe. A requirement for horse and child alike.
It’s important to remember this before we judge. Remember what it’s like when you do things with your horses and children and how very difficult it is, before deciding someone else is failing as a parent or trainer. Life is difficult. We don’t need to make it worse. Offer kindness and consideration before condemnation. Offer help before criticism.


Children and Horses, 2

If training horses is like raising children…
Yes, children who are told no and yelled at often can be just as rotten as those who are raised in a more positive manner. Or worse ( They can also be very well behaved though.
One reason for that can be learned helplessness.
Many horses can act scared of nothing, they go about life unaware and uninterested in their surroundings, taking anything their rider has to offer without questioning. This is so often brought on by learned helplessness. They learn there is no escape, no point in fighting, they give up and pull deep into themselves, plowing through anything they are ask to, numb to the fear.
This can happen with children too.
I was talking to a lady who was reminiscing that maybe they shouldn’t have been so hard on their oldest child. He had been spanked regularly for little things like accidentally spilling his milk glass at the dinner table.
I cried inside upon hearing that.
Were their children well behaved? Yes. As long as they were under the parents thumb and the learned helplessness was kept up.
Like horses once the learned helplessness is no longer maintained children can wake up, come out of it with all the resentment and pent up anger that being raised in such an oppressive environment will build. It can lead to rebellion against their parents as soon as they taste freedom, running wild and doing all the things their parents were trying to avoid with their overbearing behavior.
There are abundant stories about horses is sold, from a trainer, who carefully maintains the learned helplessness, to a new owner who was searching for that dead broke, safe, dependable horse they thought they had found. Only for the horse to suddenly start bucking and spooking at everything.
Quiet and well behaved is not worth being forced into submission. Dependability and trust are better earned through other methods.

Raising Our Children/Horses

From the very beginning I thought that raising children must be like training horses. Turns out I was right
I was watching my children at one of the many activities that our lives revolve around. The parents around me were talking about life, children, everything under the sun.
As usually happens one of them was the loudest and most outspoken. It was impossible for me not to hear everything she had to share with the world.
Someone had been trying to tell her how children could be taught in a positive manner. They had said that parents should tell children what they should do instead of yelling at them when they do the wrong thing.
Sound at all familiar?
She was telling her captive audience how silly and pointless that was. She had four children to raise, she didn’t have time for that.
I laughed, on the inside, as I heard that. The child she was there with was running rampant about the area getting into no end of trouble.
It was good to see that her methods worked for her
I’ve noticed much of the same thing about the people who tell me that positive reinforcement wont work for horses either. They tell me that it will create biting monsters. That horses will never behave unless we show them who’s boss and make sure we are dominant. It’s the natural way of the horse world.
So much of the time, as they are saying these things, their horses are doing exactly what they just described, no treats involved.
It can be easy to project our fear of failure and feelings of incompetence onto others. To think that if we can’t get our horse, or children, to listen using the method we are, than there’s no way anyone else could get them to in any other way.
Just because we can’t do something doesn’t mean it can’t be done, just that we don’t know how yet. If what you are doing now isn’t working take a chance, try something new.



It’s been a crazy busy last few weeks and I haven’t gotten anything posted! Things are slowing down a little and I hope to get caught up, there are lots of things going on that I wanted to talk about, just didn’t get a chance. Until then, here’s more time playing with Rusty.
In the Horse Tricks Academy this month we’ve been concentrating on doing less while working with our horses and here I am doing as little as possible to while playing with Rusty.
So often people tend to over cue, offer way more help than needed, and generally muddy up communication with our horses.


Getting the halter on Ghost for the first time.
This one is a little old.
I could have held her still long enough to pull the halter on quick and get it fastened before she could get away. Probably. But I don’t want to do it that way. Not completely. We did end up with a little bit of that once she was more comfortable with the halter.
Instead we worked on letting her get used to it all around her head then eating her treat through the nose piece.
Once the halter was on I did not start pulling on it. if the halter goes on and then lots of fun stuff happens, tricks and treats, then the halter becomes associated with those things and is a great fun thing to put on.



Rusty and I entered a virtual western dressage show last month. Technically it was last month, we submitted our video in August even though the show ended in the beginning of September.

I got my score sheet back and was very happy with our scores. The judge seemed very fair and exact in their comments and scoring. The critiques were very much accurate and the comments kind. There was advice for improvement,  real actual constructive criticism of the best kind.

I never did see any show results. Of course I didn’t look that hard either.

Today we were working around the house. Taking advantage of the nasty weather outside to get things done inside. My husband forced the children out the door with him to go get the mail. He brought me back  a package. I wasn’t expecting anything. We opened it curiously.

Inside was a ribbon!

I saw blue but I also saw brown, maybe a fifth place?

We pulled it all the way out. Small hands were grasping at it as I tried to read. It looked like it said first place though! As I saw that it disappeared with a child. I stood there grinning like an idiot.

Then I gathered my wits about me and went in search of child and ribbon.

She had nicely laid it out next to my bed for me but I had other plans. It was going on display with my buckles and pretties. Then I messaged my friend with NAWD and asked about show results. She sent me a link and I went searching. There were only two people who rode the same test.

Well, that explains a lot.

Looking over the scores and comparing I was still thrilled with our ride. Now I can’t wait until next time! I want to ride more tests!!

Cross Training

We signed the kids up for gymnastics recently. I have hopes, false hopes but still, of them someday doing vaulting. The horseback verity. The gymnastics instructor was very confused when I talked about it. She had never heard of any such thing. It doesn’t exist close to us unfortunately.

Oh well. It teaches balance and builds strength. It can;t help but help with riding. Not sure they care about that but, it makes me happy.

Our kids went in on their first lesson and did great. If I do say so myself, parents always think their kids are the best ones 😉

They went in though and were able to climb  and hang and swing and walk on the balance beam. None of what was asked was overly challenging to them. They had to work but where not over faced.

I put that credit on the hours they spend out climbing on the hay bales in the stack yard. They can clamber up the sides of the stacks and race down the top row then down again. All that exercise makes them strong and improves balance. Which helps them in gymnastics. Which I hope will help them ride better. Which will continue to make them strong and improve their balance.

Nothing they do stands alone. All activities are interconnected.

How does this tie into riding?

The answer to that is two fold. We can improve our riding by working on other things. Gymnastics is awesome but so is yoga. If nothing else it can help us reach those stirrups. It also works inn other areas though, balance and strength and focus. There are so many activities that can improve our riding. Even something as simple as regular walks.

Our horses too can benefit from exercises other than the ones directly related to the chosen sport. If we are working on trailer loading practicing stepping onto a bridge and leading will help to greatly improve the loading issues. Canter circles are improved by lots of exercises done at the walk far more effectively that continuous canter circles.

So often difficulties in one area are best solved by focusing on something completely different.

With all of that in  mind I let my son convince me to try to climb the hay stack with him. I made it up on my second try, with his urging. Then he totally schooled me. He raced across the dips and crevasses leaving me in his dust then down and up again on a new stack as I gasped for breath, following slowly behind.

I’m going to have to keep this up, I want better strength and balance for riding too.

Quiet Riders

They say that quiet riders make for nervous horses.
Going by that theory then, do quiet rides make for nervous riders?

I desperately hope for and want my children to love horses and want to ride with me. I also hate riding with my children. The bounce around and skitter about underfoot. They yell and laugh and high five each other from the saddle.
When they are around I can’t find that spot of quiet concentration that allows the horses and I to get so much done. They make me nervous and worried and I often end up yelling. The last thing that will ever make them want to ride with me.
All three of us went for a ride today. They had managed to keep wanting to ride long enough for me to get two horses saddled for once. My daughter on Harvey being led by me on Rusty with my son up behind. They seemed happy and the horses were fine with it so we went for a longer ride. The length gave me time to be desensitized to the noise and ruckus. It also gave me time to think.
Getting used to them is good for the horses and these small doses will help them be able to handle the children without me there and help the children be able to handle the horses without me there to lead them. Hopefully they can do this on their own eventually.
But it’s good for me too. I need to be exposed to the chaos. The exposure helps me to calm down and not be as up tight about the lack of calm quietness. I need lots more of this. Not just so the children can get out and ride but so I can learn to deal with the children getting out and riding.

As pleasant as I find quiet alone time with the horses these loud enthusiastic rides are good for me.