A few weeks ago, I published a video where I taught a big mare named Fiona to lower her head on cue, using mostly a positive reinforcement method. I received great feedback on that video, so I decided to share another video with Fiona.
In this video, I work on teaching Fiona how to move or “yield” her shoulders. I find that this is an important skill to teach a horse. Often when we are working with them we may take if for granted that they should know how to move away from us, but if you have ever had a horse push forward or lean their shoulder into you as you were leading them, then you have probably felt the need to be able to ask those shoulders to move away from you.
So having the ability to yield the shoulders is important for many leading and handling situations and it is a skill that she would certainly need for in-hand or under saddle work as well.
In this week's video you can see how Fiona moves easily in one direction but she gets stuck and tries to push forward when we move to the other side.
You always offer great training advice. I’d also love to hear your tips on horse care, like how to prevent, treat, and cure rain rot on a pasture boarded horse. Also, some tips on hoof care would be helpful, like how maintain their health, how to identify problems, how to decide if your horse needs to be shod, and how to know if your farrier is doing the job properly.
I really enjoy your video tutorials for the fact that you actually demonstrate the lesson on horses that are not already fully trained. This is sooo much more valuable to me than many other online videos where the horse is already ‘there’.
One problem I am having with my green Thoroughbred mare is that on the circle she falls in and cuts across the circle. I find that when riding her she doesnt listen to my inside leg as i try and prop her up and push her out.
It is also a problem when I lunge her. she cuts in on the circle and cuts across.
I would really like if you could address this in your training journals.
Great suggestion, Eva! That will be a good one to address. Did you happen to see this video from Spring: Horse that Leans In It may help as well
Hi Callie, I am continuing to do the head lowering exercise with my five year old mare and making progress it’s that and touching her ears, but she has major issues with the clippers and scissors. I have been desensitising her and can groom her shoulders and neck with them running but the instance the blades touch the hair to cut she flips and is dangerous…any ideas? She is extremely hairy and has had to have a trip to the vets to be heavily sedated and clipped because she was sweating up so much, and I couldn’t get her dried off…even after four hours she was still cold and wet on the face . All advice appreciated. I have owned her for six months and she is a nice natured mare but isn’t trusting me fully yet.
Hi Janet, is it the actual blades cutting the hair, or the feeling of the vibration that freaks her out? If it is the vibration, keep the clippers against her until she stands still then remove them (it is basically releasing for the right behavior). If it seems to be when you start cutting hair, then just check that your blades are sharp. I have had several horses react because my clipper blades were dull and I think it was pulling the hairs instead of making a clean cut. Just an idea!
also, don’t forget to cool down your clippers because they can overheat and scald your horse.
Just wondering…do you have her tied when you are trying to use the clippers on her?
If you do, it would be safer for her and you, too since if she flips or goes into a tizzy fit you can let out some lead rope and let her have the fit out and away from you.
Sounds like you’ve desensitized her first with the sound. Have you let them run while touching the back of your hand with the clippers running to her?….starting by her withers and working you way up toward her ears. Reward by turning off clippers and retreating when she allows you to touch her with the back of your hand. It’s approach, and retreat. Then approach, touch, and retreat. Keep building. If you tie a horse in a scary situation like this is to her, she will be more frightened because she not only has to deal with clippers, but if she’s tied…she feels trapped!
Hope this helps. You can find some you tube videos of Clinton Anderson desensitizing or despooking that could be helpful as well. I learn all I can from as many different trainers as I can. Frustration happens when you run out of knowledge.
In short, don’t tie for introducing scary things to the horse…it makes them more frightened because they feel trapped. Use approach and retreat to desensitize. Retreat means quit what you did when the horse shows any sign of relaxation..lowering head, licking lips, exhale, blinking eyes, resting a hind foot…etc. Never retreat when the horse is freaking…you would be teaching her to “freak”. My moderated version. Good Luck.
One thing I am always looking for is a bit of a baseline measuring system for where your horse is on ground manners . I have found that they are the key to a good relationship! But it’s hard to know how much we should really ask from them and where they are, relative to a “great” horse. Is there a checklist we can go through of exercises? Then have a video addressing weaknesses in each of those areas .
I too have been enjoying your videos using horses that aren’t fully train. I still have an issue applying pump fly spray. My gelding does well when I apply the areosal mane and tail spray for hair shine and detangling , but when I go to using fly spray he throws his head up and won’t stand still.
As far as health and nutrition is concern , I think maybe a video demonstrating sheath cleaning and checking for a bean would be helpful. I was guite surprise to learn after telling a coworker, who have had horses most of her life, of the large bean I removed from my gelding, that she didn’t really know where to check for it and thought it was something that a vet took care of if the horse started having problems voiding.
Nutrition and supplements would also be of interest . I learn a lesson this summer about undesirable results from giving my horse a fly repelling supplement. This supplement work by giving it to the horse as a top dressing to his feed daily and it builds up and excretes through the skin to repell flys. My horse developed a nervous energy that I could not get him to relax and focus . After stopping it, it took about two weeks before he return to his calm and gentle nature. A one point I thought I would have to sell him because I no longer felt safe riding him. Another lesson learn by a friend this summer was the undesirable effect of what you feed your horse can have a major effect on his behavior. Pam, a owner of a new TWH, fed her new horse sweet feed before go on a long trail ride. Sweet feed was what she and her riding partner had always given their horses before a long ride without any adverse effects. Her first trail ride with this horse was anything,but relaxing. The next day of their ride, she didn’t give him any sweet feed and the ride was as different as day and night.
Sorry to keeping go on,but she and I both with our new horses learned important lessons the hard way this summer. I hope sharing these experiences maybe would save someone from making the same mistakes .
check out Dr. Dan on the website “The Natural Vet” to see how to feed your horse the best way possible.
Love your training videos. I would like to see some exercises to get my horse to pick up his feet. He has 3 degree wedge shoes on the front to try to correct his broken back Pastern axis ‘. He has always been a tripper.and the shoes have helped a lot but he still trips when he is not paying attention. He is about 20 years old (rescued so not sure of age) and has some arthritis so is a bit stiff in the front. I take him over ground poles and he does quite well with weave poles. Any other tips?
This sounds strange, but I was recently introduced to a concept called “Sure Foot” developed by Wendy Murdoch. It basically uses different types of pads to teach the horses to be more aware of their feet and their balance. I don’t know how it really works, but I have seen big improvements in several of my horses. Here is a link with more information: http://www.murdochmethod.com/sure-foot-equine-stability-program/
I started riding relatively late in life, which proves that you are never too young to learn new things! I have been training to compete in the Hunter/Jumper events and have really enjoyed it. Specific instruction that would help me at the moment are getting my 11 year old Arabian to better collect and extend to help her make more smooth and consistent jumps, and to train her to make smooth flying lead changes. I really enjoy your videos and have learned so much. Continued success and happy holidays!
Hi Callie: I think the MOST important issue with horses under saddle is teaching them self carriage. Right now I am trying to get my young Gypsy/warmblood to learn to carry her herself correctly so she can stay physically sound and be a smooth ride. Most of the videos I have seen don’t make it clear enough on how to teach a horse to accept the bit, lower the head, round the back and push with the hindquarters. Any help on this would be very helpful to me and I am sure a lot of other young horse owners.
Awesome, great suggestion, and yes – that is so important, yet often overlooked!
I agree! Would love to learn more about this too 🙂
I agree with Elaine L., too! This is a confusing subject for me since as a novice I don’t feel much difference yet in the way the horse is carrying himself. So, naturally it is hard to tell if my cues are making much difference.
Thank you for your practical and realistic videos. They are so helpful for people like me who do not own or lease a horse and don’t get a lot of opportunity to do groundwork. I took special note of how you addressed Fiona’s grumpy moment. I actually had to rewind the video to see what the behavior was. It looked so subtle me and something I would have barely noticed and let a horse get away with.
I learn something from every video. I think all of the suggestions above are great topics. My current issue is what to do to keep my horse fit and remember his training when there are 2ft snow banks and he can`t be
ridden or taken out of the corral to play? I have noticed since I spend more time shoveling and less time with him he is more head strong and less likely to listen. This is the first winter I have decided to try to ride. It is difficult due to weather and snowmobiles. Thank you for your help and all your amazing videos as well as your book.
Thanks for the suggestions, Zythea! I struggle with the same thing in the winter, but there are some games in the barn that I can make videos on to share in Training Journals, great idea!
Thank you for making your amazing training video’s! The horse the I lease is a very ‘hot’ type of horse and on the lunge line and when I ride (sometimes) she has trouble with her downward transitions. It would be very helpful to see a movie about how to teach a horse transitions on the lunge line (especially from the trot to walk as these are the ones she struggles with the most). Thanks!
I need help on inside bend!
Great suggestions, thanks Renna!
I would love to see a video regarding cinching girth issues. At times, my mare is fine with cinching the girth but more often, she is nasty. I have tried to make this as comfortable as possible for her. I have tried different approaches and girth covers but nothing seems to permanently help. Thanks Callie!
Also, how to deal with an anxious horse.
Hi Callie! I’ve been following your videos for nearly a year now and I love them. While I seek many ways of doing things to find what works best for me (YouTube, magazines, internet sites, my own private instructor at my barn…) , your videos have become a resource I go back to over and over! (If you are curious about my progress, you can YouTube search “Dakotas transformation” for my first year of riding video compilation) I ride a gaited horse, and one of our struggles has been getting my horse forward into the canter so he’s not just “speed walking” and then once he’s cantering keeping that gait collected. He’s an all or nothing kind of horse, he’s cold blooded, and has lots of natural rate but once I get him going he wants to just go flat out! I’ve gained advice on getting my horse more forward from your videos but we still struggle even with my weekly private lessons and several practice days a week. If you could do more videos with horses who are untrained on these topics I’d be ever so grateful! My other suggestion is, being a new rider myself( one year this past November), a new horse owner ( since October), and being a fairly new team (I’ve been riding Dakota since June) what little tid-bits do you wish someone had told you as a new rider? What are your favorite ways to bond with a new equine partner and gain their trust? And what are your must haves in your tack and grooming kits?? Thanks so much! -Stefanie
Great questions… what I would do differently is a great idea for a new blog video so I will save the details, but I wish I would have known more about how horse’s think and learn, it just makes interacting with them so much easier. I also wish that I would have started off riding dressage. I realize now how fundamental the horse’s balance and use of their body is to everything we do when riding, and even with several years studying it I still feel like I am only scratching the surface of what I can learn!
Favorite ways to bond… either just hanging out in their stall or pasture doing nothing, or playing a fun and easy clicker game.
For my must haves, I think most of them are on my reviews website, http://www.happyhorsereviews.com, I also just became a vendor for Ecolicious, so I always have their products around now too…
I would like to see a video on how to introduce a horse to jumps and if there are specific cues that are used for that. Also an equipment video addressing saddle pads and different types of bridles. I am new to the english disciplines and confused about what type of pad is best and all the extras available on bridles. Thank you so much for all your videos!
Hi Kirby, Great suggestions – thank you! I have been taking several videos of horses starting over jumps and I have them in training journals – more info on that soon! The equipment is a good topic idea too!
Hi Callie, As always, your videos are extremely helpful! I just started lessons on a new horse and am trying to develop a relationship with her. I have only ever ridden lesson horses so riding one that has more spunk is forcing me to learn new things. Even just brushing her girth is more challenging. She will start shifting her weight and has even pawed the ground when I have been under there too long. I would be nice to see the progression to getting her comfortable with me brushing under there since eventually I will even need to wash her privates down there! She will also throw her head up and down in the cross ties and I’m not sure how I should train her to not do that anymore.
Just curious, when does she seem to throw her head? Is it after she has been standing and is getting bored, does she do it when you brush a sensitive area?
Wonderful videos, Callie. I, too, learn a lot watching Fiona in the videos, especially how and when you correct her as a horse that is at the beginning of her training. I am using the same exercises with my horse after watching you with Fiona, as a way to check and improve the foundation tasks. We work on so many things and I forget to refresh and improve the basics. Please do more videos with Fiona and let us see her progression over time. I am so glad others asked to see more of her. It is a great opportunity for all riding levels, including those who lease and take beginner lessons. We will all learn better timing of the release by practicing these basic tasks.
I have gotten so many tips lately from the videos that have been extremely useful. “Check for the physical issues” hit home and now I think my horse has had hind gut issues for years( cinchiness, hind flank senseitivity, asking to end the arena work, etc?) He is on the mend now and I thank you for triggering me to look further. I have also realized recently that I have been rewarding negative looks. Strange, but I walked away when his ears went back,! Now I don’t and when I give him a nasty look back he now turns his head away. 🙂
I applaud you for all the work you are doing to help us and our horses learn better ways of doing so many things.
So good to hear from you! I am glad you have been enjoying the videos and good to hear Charlie is doing well – I hope whatever issues he had with the hind gut are clearing up. Keep up the good work and I hope to see you again soon.
Thank you for your videos I love visiting your webpage to see your new posts! You are very helpful! I love the topic of horsemanship, caring for tack, what to stock in your tack box, first aid for horse. Physical fitness tips to become a better rider. Tips for students that only ride 1 x per week to get the most out of their lesson. Thank you for your assistance. I only get to ride 1 x per week but I try to read and watch as many videos during the week so that I will continue to progress as a rider, you are one of my best resources and have helped me greatly! Thank you so much. -Britt =)
I so enjoy your training videos! Since I do not yet own or lease a horse it is difficult for me to suggest topics related to horse care, but I am always interested in any information that will assist me in becoming a better rider. I find as a new (old) rider, there is so much to think about when you ride, and that in itself creates challenges, as when you think too much you don’t “feel” and you stop breathing properly. I am hoping with time and experience (and better fitness) this will dissipate for me, but I am always interested in help in this area. Thank you for your videos- I find them all interesting and inspiring. ! Nancy
Hi Callie, I only recently discovered your training videos so I’m still working my way through everything. But I wanted to say, I love the way you have with horses, always calm, gentle but firm and consistent. You also look like a lovely, ‘light’ rider – again, exactly what I am aiming for, even though I’m a long way off. I love that you show work with green horses, so we can see all the other ideas horses have, and how they might offer you alternatives when you are looking for a particular response; this is what is lacking from so many other training videos. I think you have said elsewhere that “you have to ride with a plan; but with the flexibility to address issues as they come up”, or words to that effect. I would love it if you could elaborate on that; something along the lines of; by six months of consistent work I would expect most ‘broke to ride’ horses to be able to do X, after 12 months I should be able to do Y with them. That kind of thing. It would help me understand where particular activities fall in a timeline of training. I hope this makes sense to you, and thank you again!
Thanks Natalie, great suggestions!
I would like to see more on lateral movements. How to use your seat, legs and reins. And more information on using reins. When and how to use them.
Thank you for all of your excellent videos! I have enjoyed them and have put the information to use and gotten great results! I would love to hear more about how to slow my horse’s trot and canter. The slightest cue with my legs sends him exploding forward and then I end up off balance and out of control! I would also like more info on how to stop him from backing up when I go to mount him and then moving forward when I am swinging my leg over the saddle and not even ready to ask him to go! Also, I tried a new Australian saddle on him and when I mounted, he felt like he was trembling underneath me and I thought he might throw me so I dismounted and haven’t tried it since. I wondered if this was common or not and what it could mean. Thank you again Callie!
Hi Patty, thanks for all your suggestions! I did just make a new mounting video, so I will post that soon. As far as your leg cue – try moving your legs more when you are just walking around – essentially desensitize him to some of your leg movement so that he doesn’t think that every move of your leg means something.
With the saddle, could it have been pinching somewhere that was causing him to tense up? While different saddle can certainly feel different to horses, a reaction like this would make me think it was probably causing discomfort somewhere. Perhaps I will have to talk to my saddle fitter about doing a video on proper fitting 🙂
Hello, You already gave me some amazing advice on my OTTB who has bridling issues, and it has gotten better. His other vice is pulling back, I have been told he does this because he was cross tied only, but I feel like he would of done this in cross ties as well. Again his old owners say he never did this with them (I bought him through someone else, not them), so teaching a horse to stand tied would be a good one. Also maybe how to keep a spooky horse relaxed, or a good way to desensitize a spooky horse? I do tarp work with him, plastic bags, ect. But none of those seem to phase him at all, it’s the doors opening and closing that scare him and make him spook, or if there are too many horses he starts to get uneasy. So a good desensitization video with a spooky horse, or a horse or is very sensitive would be wonderful to see, I try my hardest to work with him on it, but sometimes it seems like it doesn’t work and sometimes it seems like it does. He only has a few vices, but I want to know how to make them better! Also for horse care I would love a video on how to do a good thrush treatment, I have been battling it ever since I got him, and nothing seems to work. So it would be nice to see what you would or do for thrush.
Thanks for all the suggestions, Chelsea!
Hi Chelsea; After 55+ years of horse ownership, I have found a great Thrush Remedy. It’s called ” NO Thrush” . I swear by it. I came across it on YouTube, ordered it online (I think Jeffers? but check horse.com as well) . It’s a powder that actually stays in the frog’s crevices. Muddy paddocks or turn out areas are not a problem, and in fact, help to form the protective layer over the powder….when you clean the hooves, you’ll find powder residue left in the crevices! It works in just a few days. I’ve not had a problem with thrush in the last 3 years. Once the problem is resolved with the No Thrush, you can just use it periodically as a preventative when conditions lend themselves to this bacteria.
Of course, daily hoof cleaning is the best preventative! It allows air to circulate. Thrush thrives in an environment that doesn’t have air…and loves dampness and manure mixture.
I hope you’ll give this product a try. I think you’ll love it! VERY EFFECTIVE, Easy to apply, safe, and not messy!
For tying a horse that pulls back try the ” Aussie tie ring”….watch Clinton Anderson’s demonstration if you can so you have a better idea of how to introduce and use it. The premise is that when the horse pulls back (because of fear, and/or claustrophobia) the rope slides through to allow slack and when the horse is a few feet back from the hitching post, he quits pulling because now he feels safer. Surprisingly, the horse doesn’t learn to pull back with this ring once he gets comfortable with it. I, and many other horse folks I’m sure are/were skeptical about this, but the horse absolutely will learn NOT to pull back because he becomes confident about being tied! It has adjustments (no tools required) to make it be like a “solid” tie if you want it to be, but on my “X- puller” (cured now) I use the easiest setting (recommended to start your teaching with) and I have several hanging in my indoor arena that get used by my riding students who all use the easy setting…never had a problem, yet! (used since they first came out…approximately 10 years ago ). You can take this ring with you and easily snap it on your trailer ring ties both inside and outside, too. Nice, handy, feature! Better than a “panic snap” if the horse loses his footing and falls in the trailer…he won’t hang himself! A cheap and effective solution to keep your horse safe when tied anywhere, and for trailering (if you don’t have an Aussie tie ring) is to tie the lead rope to a piece of baling twine instead of to the metal tie in the trailer (still using your “quick release knot”). The twine will break if the horse is in trouble!
Hello, I am new to this site and new to riding. I am 60years old and so am late to this wonderful expereince and it does mean that I am rather cautious and this affects my confidence. I am just learning to do a rising trot, turning and transitioning from walk to trot and halt. Sometimes the horse I am riding just stops and I cant get her to go at all. It normally happens when I change direction – the horse is a riding school horse and so may be a bit tired of people bobbing around on her back but I also know it is because I am giving her lots of mixed signals. I would really like help with understanding the effect of leg and rein signals on the horse so that when she doesn’t do what i would like her to do I might understand why and I can change my signal. I hope this makes sense. Many thanks
Thanks for your comment – everything you mentioned is just normal challenges as you are learning to ride, so keep at it and there will be lots of new videos and resources here for you at the blog!
hy Calli .thank you for your videos.i am enjoyng watching and learn good points .just one thing i dont like is how you are giving treats after every try from Fiona. i think it creates more problems than doing any thing good.i believe its harder work for her to stay focused on you as she is also focused on food.maybe thats one way and i am sure you know what you are doing but personaly i dont think i would use treats. a gentle stroke and a moment of rest has the same effect without causing extra tension .
Hi, I recognize there is controversy around positive reinforcement and food in training. I don’t use it all the time, but I have found it to be very effective with many horses because it puts the horse into a mindset of trying to figure out what the person wants in a different way than negative reinforcement (pressure and release). It depends on the horse as well, but Fiona learned very well this way.
Loved this video! I began shoulder yields just last week and wasn’t sure of the timing. She was moving back and over at the same time. I didn’t know what the correct response was other than just moving over. I didn’t want to confuse her so I ended the session with her. Now that I’ve seen you training Fiona, I will begin again. I also figured out from this video exactly what you meant about building on success. If they forget something they’ve been taught before, go back and go over that then move on.
I enjoy the work you do with Fiona. She may be learning to yield the shoulder, but there are a lot of other stuff you are teaching her that I find helpful too. such as how you handled her when she got a little nasty. I hope as you train her, she is filmed- I find her quite interesting. Some of the behaviors, she display I see in my horse from time to time and I am not sure how to handle them.
Hi Lorena, We did film several other sessions with Fiona – she was a lot of fun to work with. The videos are in the Training Journals program.
Fiona is a drop dead beautiful horse. We were trying to guess her details:
-Irish Sport Horse
=Five or six years old
– Over 17 hands tall
How close did we get?
Pretty close! She is about 17.1, six years old, and a Dutch Warmblood!