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When I work with riders who are brand new to riding, I find they focus first on the techniques and the positions. Where do I put my leg to get him to go faster? I’m using my rein, why isn’t he steering? How do I make him back up?

They expect the horse to be a sort of furry motorbike – hit the right buttons and you’ll get the expected response.

On a well-trained horse this can work, and learning the cues a horse has been taught is important.

But, at some point, the horse will become distracted, or uncomfortable, or he may simply choose not to respond.

Every rider eventually realizes that riding is more than just staying in the saddle and hitting the right buttons, it’s about communicating with the horse. It’s about creating some rapport and a relationship with them, even if you only ride that horse one time in a lesson.

You may have heard the phrase “every rider is a trainer” before, and it is entirely true. Every interaction we have with a horse (your horse or a school horse) matters, because we are teaching them something – whether we like it or not.

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The first step to begin thinking like a trainer is to see the big picture of riding and horsemanship.

Riding is a challenge… there are many components to good riding

No doubt, riding is a tough sport. Frankly, there is a lot going on – the balance of the rider, the way the horse behaves, how has he been trained, does his tack fit, etc, etc.

If you continue to strive for improvement, the learning never stops. The more you learn, the more you often realize you still don’t know.

With all the moving parts, how do you work through a challenge? Whether that challenge is feeling out of rhythm in a particular gait or dealing with a problem from your horse: pushy behavior, dragging you off when leading, or not wanting to go forward under saddle.

It is always important to look at ourselves as riders – to be sure we are not doing something goofy in the saddle that is preventing the horse from doing what we ask, for example leaning off to the right while attempting to ask our horse to move left.

But the solution to a challenge often involves more than simply improving our “technique” as a rider.

Because unlike a motorbike, there is more at work influencing the behavior of the horse than how we are working the clutch and accelerator.

What influences behavior

To be clear, everything the horse does is “behavior”. Whether or not he stops when we ask, spooking, performing a lead change, leaving too long for a jump, drifting towards the gate, moving faster, moving slower, etc.

There are four main influences on a horse’s behavior: genetics, environment, past experiences, and their physical state.

Let me explain each of these more in depth:

A horse’s genetics will affect how he acts. We expect an Arabian to be more sensitive and reactive than a Percheron Draft.

When tracking the lineage in many breeds, the offspring of certain mares or stallions are often known for similar personality traits: they are quiet, intelligent, head strong, easily excitable, etc.

Recent increased knowledge in genetics suggests that the genetic component may play an even larger role in behavior such as cribbing or increased fear.

Environment is everything going on around the horse – it includes where he is at – the quiet home pasture vs a busy show arena. It includes common distractions, other horses running around, barking dogs, or bursts of wind blowing leaves around. Environment also includes us and our interactions with the horse.

A horse’s past experiences affect his behavior, this includes his prior training, and generally whether experiences were pleasant or unpleasant for him. A scary ride in a trailer will make him more difficult to load the next time, just as getting a carrot and being turned loose again after haltering in the field should make him easier to catch the next time.

Physical state also plays a huge role, and unfortunately, just as with any living creature, our horses can have many ailments. From gastric ulcers creating internal pain to a sore back being pinched by an ill fitted saddle to a sore tooth getting banged by the bit, many behaviors chalked up to a horse being “stubborn, disrespectful, or otherwise disagreeable” may simply be the horse protesting discomfort.

However, knowing what could be causing a behavior does not necessarily tell us what is causing that behavior.

Some factors of a horse’s behavior, we have no control over. We can’t change a horse’s genetics or what they have experienced in the past, but we can influence many factors in their environment, and we can also help resolve many physical issues as well.

Let’s take a closer look at what we can influence. An easy reference tool to help understand this is the horsemanship wheel.

The wheel consists of six key areas of horsemanship. This includes our abilities as a rider and how we interact with the horse (summed up under “rider”) as well as the equipment we use and how the horse is cared for, their nutrition and dentistry, hoof care, how they are managed (think stall time vs pasture, their social life, etc), and their body care, which becomes more important depending on the level of performance expected from the horse. Body care may be taking the time in training to focus on the flexibility, strength, and body awareness of the horse or getting outside help with massage or chiropractic.

This wheel provides another visual of this bigger picture of riding and horsemanship. The goal, at least for most of us, is not to become an expert in every area, but to learn enough to recognize what may be the root cause of a riding challenge or behavior problem from our horse, and know the next steps to solve that problem and continue progressing forward.

For example, imagine a rider asking for the canter. Your horse doesn’t go into it, instead as soon as the rider asks, the horse tenses up and pins their ears.

Many riders might give up here saying “he just doesn’t want to canter” or “I must not have asked him right… never mind.”

A rider who understands the big picture and can think like a trainer will stop for a minute and think… “I didn’t notice any back-soreness grooming, the saddle was just fitted two weeks ago, so shouldn’t be anything wrong there… I was asking softly, not in a way that should be irritating… I saw him doing this with another rider so perhaps it’s a learned response to the canter cue.”

This rider spends a few minutes schooling transitions into and within the trot, reinforcing the forward response from the horse with a quick release. Within about 5 minutes, the horse is going forward nicely, so this rider again asks for canter. Because there has been more reinforcement built up for going forward, this time the horse steps into canter nicely.

Instead of continuing to teach this horse to get tense when the canter is asked for, this rider worked through the problem, but to do that effectively, they first saw the big picture: the horse’s back, the fit of their saddle, how they were asking for canter.

Success, whether for you that means more happy rides, progressing to a new level, or competitive success, requires an understanding of this big picture of riding.

Success also requires thinking like a trainer. It doesn’t matter if you own a horse, ride lesson horses, or ride a friend’s horse, anytime you interact with a horse, you are teaching them something.

I’ll explain more next week! Until then, watch this video to see how I worked through a canter problem with one of the horses here, Henry.

Now it’s your turn, leave a comment and tell me one problem you’ve been having that you would love to solve!


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62 Responses

  1. Problem: Older horse basically doesn’t want to raise his back for flat work. He wasn’t reliably trained for that until fairly recently.

    1. Hi Melinda, this horse may just need more time to develop the strength to retain a lifted back for longer. The amount of time it takes to change a horse’s movement pattern depends on age, conformation, general fitness, and how often he is ridden.

  2. This – again – is a great write up and a great video. I really liked how you broke down the micro steps to get Henry to stretch into the bit, bend, transition. I fall into the category of having ridden all my childhood – regarinding my ponies and horses as furry motor bikes and by and large they went forward, stopped more or less, jumped unevenly but did jump and were ok when cars passed by. Now, as a beginner in dressage – the learning is tremendous and your pie chart speaks well of the complexities and variations that we, as riders, as humans and humane humans must delve in deeply and call upon our “inner trainers”. I had not heard the expression: every rider is a trainer! This in and of itself is a game changer. One of my riding goals for next year is to be that “trainer” to slow my steps down, break it down to very basic learning components. Thank you Callie. Looking forward to more of your insights. Xoxo and merry Christmas. Lindsay

    1. Hi Lindsay, I loved your phrase “furry motorbike” , unfortunately when I was younger there were certainly times I rode as though that’s what horses were too!

  3. I really struggle with getting the horses I ride forward. I think half of the problem is that they are seasoned lesson horses and so they are conditioned to do the absolute bare minimum they can get away with, and as I am not a very good rider, I am unable to ask them to go forward more effectively. I feel like I’m doing everything I possibly can but the trainer still yells “more leg” at me and no matter what I do, the horse does not speed up, let alone engage it’s hind end, which seems like the utmost goal (to get the horse on the bit).

    I am having a few weeks off from riding over the holidays, I will be spending some of the time thinking about my inner trainer and how could I be better in this role. Your videos are very helpful for this, thank you!

    1. I have the same challenge! I have watched endless videos and I follow Callie’s training methodology–excellent by the way. I am also a bit nervous as the school horse I’ve been riding seems to shy once every lesson and at the last one she put her head down and gave me a good buck after a dandy sideways bolt! I am only five lessons in after 35 years away from riding and am nervous and exhausted by all the leg-on stuff! I can get a trot, albeit a lazy one and have to invoke a canter before I can get a better trot. I can carry a crop but this seems to be the only way for me to make up for my lack of skill (only one showing of the crop or a light tap seems to do the trick for the whole lesson).

    2. School horses are a very special kind of horse and we could not promote and build our sport with out them! As beginning riders are learning, having a horse with less go and more whoa is important. A safe horse that can teach you the basics is essential. So having said this, once you reach a level where you are learning a little about collection, as you are, a more forward horse might be perfect, or so you’d think. However, with a more forward horse come greater challenges. Learning to take that forward energy (which can feel pretty scary at first since he might be more likely to speed up on you than slow down or stop if you do not know how to successfully contain that energy and re-appropriate it into a collected frame). You said, “I am not a very good rider”. If you are still in the learning process of asking for more forwardness from your seat and legs, perhaps you aren’t ready for a more forward horse! I know it can be very frustrating to ride a horse that is more “dead to the aides” as some of our dear school horses become, but be patient and listen to your instructor. Build up your core and your lower body, legs, and build up your endurance and general strength through a regular work out program, if you aren’t doing this already. The stronger and more athletic you get the better! If you aren’t using a crop, ask about using one. If you are, make sure you’re using it effectively! A lot of students are very hesitant to use a crop in a way that it wakes the horse up and gets him moving. A quick snap of the crop right in time following your “ask” should cause the horse to move forward. Sometimes once or twice is all you need and then the horse gets it. He starts moving forward off the leg. However, if you’re slow with the snap and you lightly tap him afraid of his reaction or afraid you’ll hurt him, he won’t be bothered with you. A dressage whip, in my thinking, is even better carried and used appropriately but your instructor is the best person to talk with about the adding of any artificial aides and regarding when and how to use them. She/he knows the horses assigned to you and how they will respond. Finally, be patient with yourself! Take heart in knowing that everyone goes through this process. You instructor can not place you on a more forward mover that you aren’t ready for yet. A good instructor rules on the side of SAFETY FIRST! Talk with him/her about this issue and your frustrations. Remember, it takes MANY hours in the saddle, watching and learning from others, observing lessons, and riding many different horses to become a decent rider. We are all always in the process of learning and growing in this wonderful sport, your instructor included! When you are ready for a horse with more go than whoa, you will understand how to contain his forward energy into a frame, maintain the pace that you set with your body (this is VERY important!) and be able to transition on the spot, ESPECIALLY DOWNWARD! Hope this helps! Good Luck and Happy riding! 🙂

  4. I work at a therapeutic riding center and the horses there get mostly ridden by clients who do not have good riding skills. I feel sometimes like the behavioral “withdrawals” they make from the horses are larger than the “deposits” I can make when I ride them (my riding time is limited). It seems like the horses regress further and faster than I can fully reverse. I know this is a difficult situation, but any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Yes, indeed it is! Giving the school horses “tune ups” is a balancing act of finding enough time yourself to do it and tempering their overall use in your program, especially when you’re school horse pool is limited. In addition to under saddle schooling, I’ve found that a good way to school a too forward or a too slow horse or whatever the issue may be is through ground work. There are great exercises we can use on the ground with horses to help them become more sharp with their response when asked for upward or downward transitions and other schooling needs that can easily be translated to under saddle work. Following up with some under saddle schooling to solidify everything helps. Ground work is a great support to schooling the school horse or any horse!

    2. Hi Elisabet,
      This is a tough situation… at the center, are the clients riding independently or with a handler and side walker?
      I don’t have direct experience with therapy programs, but I have two thoughts.
      First, I have experienced the same issues with “regular” lesson clients as well. What I found is that I needed to get better at keeping the exercises I was having the rider and horse do more within the range of the rider’s competence. Then when we go to more advanced, challenging riding skills, I set up the situation so that, to the best of my ability, the rider is successful and the horse does not get reinforced for undesirable behavior. For example, putting the horse on the lunge line to canter, laying out side poles to guide over a cavaletti or jumping grid, etc.
      For a situation where the horse is being led, I have observed and learned from the therapy group that teaches clinics here at my farm (Natural Lifemanship), the importance of keeping a connection with the horse. The handlers job is not to just thoughtlessly lead the horse around, but to stay connected to the horse, paying attention for signs of discomfort, keeping them engaged, etc.
      Hope this helps! Callie

      1. Hi Callie. Most of the clients have side walkers and a horse handler. A few ride independently. Some are a little heavy handed and have poor balance. I think your comment about the horse handlers staying connected is right on the spot. I will pass that along… it’s a great visual that I think will help everyone! Very grateful for your help. Merry Christmas and a very happy 2018 to you!

  5. Great video again, as always. ONE challenge I have with my horse is suppleness in the corners —- I want Asher to “bend” around my leg with his nose turned in —-but I often feel I am tugging on the inside rein and not helping him balance well.

  6. Thank you for all your help.
    1st problem
    She does not like the saddle to be cinch up. When doing this she bites other side or tries to bite me. What I do is a walk after getting it so far. Then do some more. Do this 2 to 3 times.
    2nd. When trying to get on my horse she keeps moving. She goes in a circle. After I am on I make her stand still for a while. One day I just went to the other side an got on. She does not like that either now.
    3rd. In the arena, she walks nice. The trot is getting better. I am going to use what you showed in this video. If I goe outside the arena with other horses she is getting walking better.
    She does not fight me too much with bridle anymore.
    When I get my remote for GoPro I will film it for you.

  7. Hi Callie:
    Love these videos.
    I have been leasing a horse 3 days a weeek for several years. My problem is that he walks off at the mounting block as I put my foot in the stirrup and put my leg over. Apparently he has been doing this aall his long life. Is it too late to get him to stand still?

    1. Hi Anne, not at all too late! Use the search feature here to look for “mounting block” and you will find a few videos come up on that topic!

  8. Thanks for this video, as always! I actually had a similar situation with one of my horses this past fall. He started giving me trouble when asking for the canter. When he would move into the canter, he would get the wrong lead on the right side. This is something he almost never did. I knew I had him in good shape, healthy , and well fitting back.
    I decided to have a chiropractor come out that week and adjust him. He was out a little in his back but he suggested I still look into the issue. I then had my vet come and examine him , as he didn’t appear lame or in pain at all until riding at the canter. We found out he injured his one back hock. this wasn’t an injury I was familiar with , so I didn’t know. He’s been on rest from riding since, getting regular massages , therapy exercises , supplements, etc until spring. I will have to work to build his riding and muscles back up slowly, and go from there.
    Long story short, I agree. It’s usually not a horse just giving “attitude.” You need to step back and check into everything!

  9. Callie, this is so great. I am a re-rider (rode as a kid, but getting back into it as an adult) and I am really finding that most horses (even very green ones) who have lived with humane humans really want to do well. I have learned so much with school horses this year…sometimes little bucking episodes are due to saddle fit or a chair seat. Sometimes head-tossing is the horse’s way of telling the rider to have quieter hands and stop catching them in the mouth. Pawing? Maybe it’s not annoyance, maybe it’s a gas colic. I am committed to listening more closely to the horse!

  10. Very timely session for me as I struggle with my Rasco…have had to take a BIG step back and examine the picture. As a result have made some changes and will now take the winter to figure out if we are indeed heading in the right direction.
    As always, very much enjoyed you and Henry and love your “seasonally appropriate” headware! Thanks

  11. Thanks great video.
    One of the challenges I have is never knowing whether I am holding my reins correctly. I am very aware of having “light” hands but sometimes I think I’m too light. Trying to get my horse’s head lower seems to make him throw his head around.
    Perhaps one of your videos might cover this in the future!

  12. Very useful video, as usual. Although it was mentioned almost in passing, the part about stepping back in the horse’s training is one that I’ve done myself and found it really valuable. Of course, that means more time.

  13. I’m still working on building my mare’s confidence around other horses and in dealing with “the great outdoors.” My horse is definitely not a furry motorbike.

  14. I agree with the post above about what a great tip it is to step back in the horse’s training and build the tools and communication you need to have more success — I am working on this very thing (canter transitions) with a green mare and am focusing now on a lot of OTHER stuff that will hopefully make us more successful when we go back to working on the canter. Helps me feel like I am still working on the canter, even if I’’m not actually cantering right now!

  15. I agree with the post above about what a great tip it is to step back in the horse’s training and build the tools and communication you need to have more success — I am working on this very thing (canter transitions) with a green mare and am focusing now on a lot of OTHER stuff that will hopefully make us more successful when we go back to working on the canter. Helps me feel like I am still working on the canter, even if I’’m not actually cantering right now!

  16. Always a great video. I’m having difficulty keeping my feet back during the canter transition and while cantering. My left hip is less flexible since I only have a little cartilage there unlike my right one which I had replaced a year ago. Thanks in advance for your advice.

  17. This is a very unique way to teach us as riders to look so more closely and with intention, our horses lives, behaviors, and emotions. I like to note that I take care of several portions of the pinwheel. At least, i’m learning much more closely what I don’t know:) You are an excellent teacher Callie.

  18. Hi there! Callie I find your posts really useful as a novice rider. I have difficulty staying in canter once I’m in it. I ride riding school horses; one thoroughbred ex racer and one Welsh cob, who is a kind of school mistress. I think it’s me because I think I tense up after a while and then lose a bit of balance.

  19. I am city bred so the only contact I’ve had with horses is basically one trail ride which put me off because of the condition of the horses. I have now been learning for 4 months on a beautiful well cared for made but I just cannot get the post. I don’t seem to be able to get the rhythm and for some reason I can’t do it by watching which leg goes forward. Is there a formula for posting

  20. Hi Callie
    Very useful video as usual
    I ride a mare who is little green like me
    My problem is that whenever I ask for canter she will trot faster and faster
    If ever she picks up the canter,she will really go very fast andthan after short distance
    she will abruptly stop
    I am not able to make her go slow and continuous
    This has become such a frustrating problem
    Can you please help me?
    Nisha Sutaria

    1. Hi Nisha,
      Unfortunately there are so many things that can cause this: horse discomfort, horse unbalance, horse not understanding, rider losing balance, rider bracing, etc.
      So while I can not give you an answer to what is causing the problem in your situation, I would recommend working through the “wheel”, considering each part… saddle fit, your position, does the horse understand the cue, etc.

  21. Thank you Callie, I really enjoy your videos and find them very informative. My largest issue with my quarter horse mare is a forward trot. It takes an enormous amount of leg to get her to go forward and an extended trot is very rare which, as an older adult beginner, is very tiring and makes circles and serpentines difficult. I do use a small spur and luckily the few others that have ridden her complain of the same issue so I’m not the Lone Ranger thankfully. She was trained as a western pleasure horse and the previous owner, who had her for ten years, did say she was more slow than go. I ride her English now and she doesn’t show any physical discomfort. It’s a more productive and learned ride when I can, on occasion, get her more forward. The trainers don’t seem to have the same problem with her so maybe it’s just my lack of leg power. Any suggestions?

    1. I’d like to follow your comment if you don’t mind so I can see what Callie replies. I have this same exact situation with one of my horses. A quarter horse gelding previously trained wp, now English. 🙂

  22. This is exactly what I’m working on with my horse. Thank you.
    My horse also do a kind of buck in the transaction. It’s uncomfortable and a bit scary to be honest. It helped to not slide the outside leg back to do the transition. But now she will speed more up to get into the canter. What to do?

  23. Like Linda V, maintaining bend to inside on left rein is often difficult, she can also fall in on the left rein. She is hollow (and mane falls) to the left, left fore hoof is bigger. I’ve had very different advice from instructors, ranging from ‘look to the outside’ (and shoulders slightly turned out) to keep shoulders aligned to the wanted direction, draw back inside elbow keeping outside rein contact, maintaining inside ‘pillar’. AND, (for straightening training) lose completely the outside contact on a circle, and sit or resist the rise as the inside (horse) hip lifts under ones seat. Saddle checked by master saddle fitter, chiropractic and dentistry done yearly, v.g. well qualified farrier. I can’t help thinking that some of the riding advice is just sticking plaster over the symptoms or a quick fix, and some will help the mare straighten over time?

    1. Hi Georgie,
      Physical asymmetry does take time to work through. I think this might help with your last comment about which riding fixes are helping vs managing the problem… anything that promotes quality, relaxed stretching and bending to that stiff side is going to beneficial.

  24. Hi Callie! Love the fancy headband!
    After learning so much from you already and working with my mare almost daily since the summer, I didn’t expect to have the problem I encountered the day before Thanksgiving. I was out for a leisurely ride with a barn friend, but my mare had other ideas. In short, we were facing upward on a modest hill and she threatened to rear. When she has previously not wanted to walk back in the arena (under saddle), she sets her jaw and neck in the direction she wants to go and sidesteps that way, fancy- headtossing included. We worked through that in the barnyard, but on this day, we were riding in a new field, which was actually her turnout field without other horses in it. They of course were in another field and this was the direction she wanted to go in. When she set her head, shifted her weight back, held her head really high, I knew if she really reared, I was off. So I chose not to fight that, rode back into a section closer to the gate and worked on circles, halting, walking, and backing. My instructor told me in my next lesson to verbally reprimand her, reach down towards the bit, and turn her nose firmly towards her hind quarters and into a circle several times. This feels like she’s telling me to make a big scene to make a big impression, but it’s not quite in my temperament and I’m not sure it will work. It seems to me a horse can rear even if she’s twisted and I’ll have less of a chance staying on and more of a chance both of us could be injured. My mare has never threatened to rear in the arena when we are schooling. I know the hill was a perfect fit for the opportunity. So the problem isn’t rearing I think but moving past her bag of tricks to ride around the farm separated from her field friend.
    I look forward to the goal setting workshop and coming to PA for a few lessons in January!
    Happy Holidays!

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      I agree that you have likely found the deeper issue here… the separation. I would be curious if you walked her out (on the ground) what kind of behavior you might get. It can be confidence boosting to work through some of this kind of behavior on the ground.

  25. For starters I could just ditto Lindsay’s comment. My days of childhood riding were exactly that and now, some 40 years later, dressage has opened up a whole new world which has in turn led to a deep interest in natural horsemanship — simply fascinating. Most importantly, in relation to your post, is your statement that “every rider is a trainer.” As a student riding a variety of school horses I’ve been thinking: what’s my relationship to them? What impact do I have on them? And how can I be a “good human” to best support them being a Happy Horse? Thanks for the foundational answer to these questions.

    Regarding specific goals, I feel well supported in my mounted education. I am wanting more information and experience with ground work. If my reading and watching resources are accurate ground work has a big impact on every interaction with the horse — their peace of mind, our safety, successful communication, etc.

    Thanks again for sharing your experience, expertise, and insights.

    Happy Holidays,

  26. Hello Callie,
    Many thanks for all your hard work in sharing your expertise. My challenge is keeping my horse’s backs up with legs flowing into HONEST contact. I can get these 3 elements together sometimes, but lose the back or the legs, or the stretch into the bit. Have a 23yo quarter horse & 18yo Lipizzan. Merry Christmas!

  27. Hi,
    I am taking lessons and for the most part ride the same horse each week. His behavior can change week to week. For instance spooking one week, not responding to my requests, etc. Since I don’t know what’s going on with other rider’s or why things have changed and are happening it’s really hard for me each week. I spend a good amount of time during the lesson identifying why he might be doing something and how I can modify my behavior and or his. Does anyone have any ideas for me? I realize this problem is inherent to lessons and school horses but there must be something that can help us both! ThanKS so much! Susan

  28. I’m leasing a horse, Manny, and training him the way I learned this summer when I had my former horse, Happy, with Calli for training. From the beginning Manny’s personality from the ground is much stronger and determined and although I’m not afraid of him I know I need to rein in this behavior. He is not as attentive to me as he should be, is very mouthy, a lot of tail swishing. As of now his behavior under saddle is quite agreeable and he is a safe feeling horse to ride. The training method I learned with Happy was to release pressure and click for a correct response and then reinforce with food. I’m going to start taking away the food reinforcement to see if I get a better attitude. Manny is a younger horse and higher in the pecking order than Happy and he’s not a “lovey” horse which I’m ok with but he needs to see me as a desicion maker for us to have a better relationship. I would love it if Calli would do some more videos on horses with big attitudes and inattentive behavior.

    1. Hi Beth,
      Thanks for your comment, it was great to meet Manny the other week at the barn!
      I would do groundwork to help with this – specifically an exercise at liberty to build attention and focus. It would honestly be difficult to describe accurately, better demonstrated, so I will think about how to best show this in a video!

  29. Hi Callie, My problem is my mare Neffy is quite hollow at the trot and it is pretty short and choppy. I’m just learning western dressage and I am very green as a rider. Are there specific exercises I can do to improve that?

    1. Hi Valorie, I would start on the ground, teaching head down, walking a circle with head down, and doing some basic stretches with your horse

  30. I ride a horse that moves like a snake unevenly from side to side and he needs a regular warm up to get him to be straight and consistent. He also needs to support his back with his abdominales which are weak. We start with asking him to respond to the bit and stretch out his neck from the poll at a walk . Once he is more warmed out I move into a trot. Then I start riding him in a hexagonal shape and trying to keep him channeled between the reins at each side of the hexagone to encore him to move forward balance in a straight movement through each side of the hexagone. Then I slowly proceed to change to a Pentagone until finally he is moving consistently forward with out squigling from side to side, while encouraging him to continue being on the bit , extend thru the poll so he lifts and supports his back more, and develops a more consistent forward straight stride.

  31. Hi Callie. Thank you for your video. I lease my lesson horse who is a 20-something quarter horse-type rescue. He came to Bowcrest Farm about 3 years ago with lots of baggage, mostly unreliable ground manners. Once saddled, one could discern that in his younger days, someone had spent a lot of time with and on him. Somewhere along the line he fell on hard times and that’s how he came to be at Bowcrest. Over the last three years, I’ve been working on his ground manners and they have improved immensely. There are still issues with separation anxiety when other horses are not in the barn.
    This horse has been a challenge from the start in that he would not pick up his right lead, not even for my trainer. After months of thought, trial and error, watching all kinds of training videos, having him seen several times by a chiropractor vet, I am happy to say his is taking the right lead more consistently. While he was in pretty good condition, the vet did find that several of his ribs were out on both sides. In addition, last winter, his walking was wacky in the hind-end, wringing hocks. The chiropractor vet visited again, putting his neck and more ribs back into place. After that visit, the horse was a bit better at taking the right lead, but still needed a low jump to raise him up enough to get the right lead. Then, this fall I finally recognized that his neck often seemed to be bent oddly when I asked for the right lead canter. I started bending him toward the outside of the ring at the corner so he could get his right side situated for take off. When I told my trainer what I was doing, she instructed me not to actually turn his head to the outside, but to keep more contact in the left rein and less contact in the right rein. While he still does not get the right lead every time, he is much more consistent about it and can take the right lead on the arena track rather than having to go over a jump to get it. My trainer was short lessons horses the other week and had to use this horse for one of the young girls. She commented that this young girls was able to get the horse to take the right lead several times during the lesson. That’s a win!

    This has been a very good learning experience for me. I tried solving my lesson horse’s issues from multiple directions, incorrect cues from me or me preventing the horse from taking his correct lead in some way, saddle issues, physical issues, training issues, etc. It is my riding ability that prevents this horse from performing well 95% of the time, however, I do believe this horse was hurting from an incorrectly aligned skeletal system. The chiropractor still comes out at three month intervals and also uses cold laser therapy. I’m hoping that eventually we can stretch the visits to 4 or 6 months. Only time will tell. This horse and I are both seniors and we do not bend and frolic like we did twenty years ago, but we still can do something!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Carol! Glad he is doing so much better with that lead and nice work getting to the problem 🙂

  32. I have difficulty transitioning into the canter. I incurred some major injuries from a fall when going into the canter on a lesson horse that bucked hard and bolted when asked. I experience anxiety each time I ask.

  33. Hi Susan,
    I’m 71 and got back into riding (after a 45 year hiatus) 6 mos. ago and am now cantering on my own in a lesson. We started on a lunge line several times and I am now cantering along the wall myself thankfully on a very well-mannered “pony” (14.2 hands…I’m only 5′ tall so this works). My suggestion is to work in a lesson several times on the lunge line on a lesson horse that is more tolerant in order to get back your courage. What’s important I find are good transitions. It’s very important to find a good trainer who understands you and is very concerned about safety. No matter how sweet the animal, they’re still animals. I for sure don’t want to incur any injuries since I’ve already had one hip replacement. Hope this helps and good luck.

  34. Gloria, thank you for the reply. I am 65 and have had both hips replaced. I incurred a fall 3 years ago from a really naughty horse and broke my pelvic bone and sachrum (probably TMI). I took lessons for about 5 years in Seattle before purchasing my horse. I am now in southern AL and am having challenges finding a trainer. The fall I experienced in August was during a lesson. The trainer had me pushing my horse more than he could handle. He lost his balance and started crow hopping. After a bit, I lost me balance and fell hard. My trainer in Seattle during the last year I was there is amazining and I trust her completely. She has traveled here a couple of times to help me over the last 18 months. I am still looking for someone local. Your suggestions are great. Again, thank you!

  35. Glad to hear back from you Susan. Wishing you success in your riding and in your lessons. I think you’re very brave to continue. Good luck in finding a local trainer who places your well being and that of the horse on a high level. There’s no room for ego when we’re riding

  36. This video was so helpful! I have the same problem with my horse. He sometimes crow hops when going into a canter. I have been able to ride in a circle which stops this behavior but I have also fallen off because he throws my balance off. Personally I’ve been exercising more to improve my strength and also boost my confidents. When he does crow hop I’m not sure if I should discipline or put leg on and make a medium circle and ignore it. He does have lymes disease which will affect the joints but I have seen him in the pasture rolling, running around, and bucking.

    1. If he has Lymes disease there is also a possibility that he is uncomfortable, but as long as his symptoms are being monitored. I would also recommend having your saddle fit evaluated – if there is a bucking problem checking the fit of your saddle isn’t a bad idea. Ruling out any physical problems you want to keep your cue for canter. I am going to link to our lazy horse video here so that you can see how those cues are applied:

      Good luck with him!

      Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

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