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What do you wish you knew back then that you know now about horses and riding? I have been asked this question a few times now (most recently by Stefanie – thanks!) and I think it is such a good question and an important topic to reflect on for all of us.

While it may bring up a few regrets, it should also stir feelings of appreciation and pride for how far you have come and what you have learned. I always have many things come to mind when this question is asked, but I narrowed it down to three that I will share with you today.

What I Wish I knew then that I know now

Take a moment to watch the video, then leave a comment and tell me – what do you wish you knew then that you know now?

(By the way, that is Floyd Amos, our trusty barn cat, in the video – I forgot to introduce him!)

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51 Responses

  1. Callie: Yes, I wish I had paid more attention to my horse’s body when I started 16 months ago. However, I am doing so now and feel much more confident. As I mentioned before, I am 77 years old so my greatest regret is not having started riding many years ago. It is now the great joy, stress reliever and confidence booster in my life.
    Floyd Amos is a star!! Thanks for featuring him as well!

    1. 77, how fabulous!

      I’m 54 and just returning to horseriding after a break of some 30 years. My family are telling me not to bother, because I’m too old now to be any good at it. I don’t actually care how good I get at it … the point is that I still love it!

      So you’re an inspiration to me

  2. I was interested to hear you discuss the things you wish you had learned sooner, in particular the last one about doing things your own way, having confidence to follow your own path even if it’s different from the one most other people seem to take. I know I’m not alone in appreciating the understated, gentle and genuine way you train horses. For me, I wish I’d taken the time and had the opportunity to learn to ride correctly from the start, even though when I was learning to ride it was the 80s, and in England; and a whole lot of ‘show ’em who’s boss’, and riding with bravado rather than understanding, and always picking up the pace even when the foundations were truly shaky (and still are). Unlearning bad habits, like riding using strength in my lower legs rather than a balanced seat, is so hard! But on the other hand, now I’m older I’m much more patient and happier with less in terms of achievement. I see now that learning to ride is a journey that requires continual refinement, rather than an end ‘destination’. I have a wonderful ten year old horse, I’m always interested and willing to learn, in fact, I love to learn how to ride better. I just want to be a great partner to him, so that we can have fun together. By the way, I love how you always unconsciously pet your animals, including your cute cat! Happy Christmas to you!

  3. I am a beginner that is in the “midlife” age group. The one thing I am learning is (and wish I had known for over a year now) that this all takes time. We have often heard it’s easy just get on the horse and go for a ride. I often get frustrated because I am not giving the right cues, my hands aren’t quiet; etc. I know that frustration in turn is influencing the horse, and slowly the enjoyment is being loss.

    1. Enjoy the journey! Riding and horses are a lifetime of learning, it does not matter what level you are at, we are all learning and all have new levels of skill and knowledge that we aspire to grow towards!

  4. The great irony of the three things you wish you had realized earlier is that your blogs and instruction have made ME aware of exactly those 3 things! And I thank you for that.

  5. Hi Callie: I wish I had known earlier how incredibly sensitive horses truly are, and that most riding and ground issues are directly related to pain somewhere in the horse’s body.
    PS: Floyd Amos is one gorgeous kitty!

  6. Hi Callie!
    My only wish is that I had found your blog and videos for three years ago when I started riding my doughters horse! Of course there are more things, but my english writing is not so good so I can explain that. But I understand every word you say, you are so easy to understand. Thank you!

    I agree with Natalie “I love how you always unconsciously pet your animals, including your cute cat!”.

    I wish you all a very Merry Christmas / Tina from Sweden

    (sorry for my spelling, hope you understand).

  7. Hi Callie,
    I enjoyed this post a great deal~ so appropriate as we wind down the year and think about our goals for next year. I echo Natalie’s sentiments. Also for me, I wish that I had not let some bad experiences (one was particularly bad and frightening) with horses and instructors prevent me from pursuing my love of horses and riding. I started and stopped riding many times throughout my life (I have spent more years not riding than riding) but this past year, I decided that I want to ride and pursue this love and dream. I wish that I had found a kind, gentle and knowledgeable instructor like you with a positive approach to riding ~ for the most part, that was not my experience. Since I am an older rider, my goal now is to become a good rider and eventually own a horse ~ I have wanted a horse since I was 5 years old, and I am determined to own a horse someday! I just received your book on “How to buy your first horse” for Christmas from my husband. Can’t wait to read it. Thank you for your wonderful blog! Merry Christmas and see you early in the new year. Nancy

    1. Nancy … I’m 56 went back to riding 3 years ago. I stumbled into an opportunity to lease a horse for a year. I had 3 days a week after work to be his owner. I loved my time with him and after a year was asked if I wanted to buy him. I can’t believe it but I did! I have Fynn a QH Paint he is wonderful. Not perfect but wonderful. I am so glad for the lease to learn so much. But believe me I had no idea how little I knew until I actually owned him.

      Don’t give up your dream … I see Fynn as my pal for the rest of my life.
      Callie maybe ideas for you:
      New horse owner … now what? 🙂

  8. For me, there’s a couple things

    First, I really wish I knew at a younger age that Racing horses wasn’t the only horse activity available.

    Second, that I took that therapeutic equine message class that my mom told me was a waste of time I still want to do this…but the time isn’t right.

    third, found friends that loved horses just as much as I do sooner. This past year, my husband and I joined a Pony club for adults and it’s opened so many resources and like minded friends. What a fantastic experience that has been.

    1. Joining a riding club is such a great idea. I’m kinda kicking myself for not thinking of that! lol. I’m an older rider and I’d love to make some friends who are my age who love to ride. I am off to google riding clubs in my area! Thank you!

      1. It really changed both my life and my husbands. The education that you get from other people is tremendous.

        Yesterday, I did a bandaging clinic for a few girls in the group and sometimes we’d go off and talk about this or that…but then we’d get back on task…It was a lot of fun. laughing and teasing when we let everyone bandage. We’re getting ready for our D2 (maybe doing D3 together) ratings test.

  9. I wish I knew sooner that a small movement and a light hand is read by the horse and he responds to this much more positively than any harsh punishment. Horses are so big that it took me some time to realize how they feel . It resonates that if they can feel a fly on their leg, think about how they feel your touch.

  10. hello Callie, love your videos and training style. I particularly enjoy learning how our energy directly impacts the horse both on the ground and in the saddle. I have spent most of my riding life as you did in your youth, mostly just doing bareback, backyard trail riding. Never had any formal training.
    I have a 16 year old green broke grade mare that is pretty spoiled and stubborn. Not her fault cause I have not consistently worked with her day in and day out. Don’t know if it’s too late for her but I have been working with her more than ever as a result of the things I have learned watching your videos. She really is a good girl, just confused.
    My questions for you are, she tends to balk , plant her feet or back up when she doesn’t want to continue on the path I have chosen. This can be dangerous and I wonder if asking for tight circles is the best thing to do in these situations to get her attention?
    Also, since it has been many years since I rode regularly, I need to do some ground work on myself too. What exercises do you recommend for me that will help me develop balance and muscle memory that will benefit me in the saddle? Things I can do on those nasty winter days? I watched your video about ground tying and spending time in the barn which has helped both her and I spend more quality, productive time together. Used to just go up, do chores and breathe the air (it’s my happy place).
    Anyway, just want to say thanks again for what you do Callie, Petra

    1. Hi Petra,
      Glad you have been enjoying the videos!
      To answer your question about exercises on the ground first, I recently discovered stability disks (they are just a round inflated plastic cushion) that you stand on and can do a variety of exercises. They are great for balance. Anything that teaches body awareness such as yoga or pilates is also easily applied to riding.
      For your mare, I would try using a dressage whip and tapping her side/hindquarter when she balks – basically really work on getting a good go-forward cue (you can even incorporate some positive reinforcement with a reward when she does go forward – it depends on the situation how appropriate this is. The tapping is not to force her forward, but to encourage her to “do something” and when she chooses forward you stop the tapping and praise to tell her that was the right answer. Circles can work as well, but I have found that the tapping creates a more solid, consistent way to ask for go forward.
      Hope this helps! Callie

  11. Hi Callie, I started riding in October and I’m so grateful that I found your blog videos and e-books. Your teaching mirrors my instructor’s teaching, so I’m happy you chose this career path. I have no regrets. Learning to ride is perfect timing in my life. Happy holidays to you and yours!

  12. This is a lovely video to end the year. Thanks so much, Callie. And, by the way, Amos is sure one gorgeous cat! I started “real” riding lessons in my 60s and bought my first horse. But I really didn’t know much about horses. For example, I panicked one day when Clifford yanked his foot away when I was picking his hooves. And I tried pulling his mane 3 or 4 hairs (!) at a time. The last 4-5 years I have been in a situation where I help with a bunch of horses – turning them out, giving medications, helping kids tack up, etc. – the kind of thing that gets you used to horses and knowledgable about their behaviors. I’ve learned so much with just this kind of daily contact and observation, and I can call up a little perspective when things don’t go exactly according to plan.
    Happy Holidays, everyone!

  13. Hi Callie,
    I would like to echo Tina’s regret in not discovering your training blog earlier. As one who is still new to the sport, I have searched the internet( that’s how I found you) to help better understand whatever I had been working on in the ring. Sometimes I would misinterpret what I read and it would cause problems and frustrations later. An example was my wanting to perfect my two point position, I somehow determined that it was bad to use your knees at all to stay connected. So now I was riding around the ring, my lower legs moving all over, feeling unstable even in the canter, and finally having a pretty good fall over a jump. I was riding around using only my calve muscles to stay in the seat. My instructor later told me you need to use your whole leg, including your knees. It just can’t be your only contact point. Ohhh!!! Merry Christmas and I will look forward to more great videos for 2015.

  14. 1) Everything I was doing and learning then contributed to how I ride and feel about my horses today. I didn’t realize then how every new expérience, skill and small lesson learned could be built upon for the next weeks, months, years. That takes patience and maturity to ride well in the moment with clear intent, release, and alow the small good things today to become even better for the future.
    2) that there are so many ways to enjoy a horse and that spending time together well is the most important thing.
    3) that there is a vast knowledge out there from people like Callie willing to share, to teach. Books are not just techniqueSomeone & anatomy lessons. Someone else’s words can inspire you to explore a new feeling, task, goal.

  15. I wished I had known that just because a horse is at a trainers it doesn’t mean he is being trained. And, I thought that once a horse was trained that was the end of it. I didn’t know I needed to know about training. I wish I had known that my riding instructors (a total of four) were not teaching me what I needed to know to be a good rider. Nothing was said about using my seat, legs, then reins. It has taken a lot of time to break bad habits.

    1. Joy … well said … train the horse .. and return it home, is ok if the horse owner is well trained. What happens if the horse owner is not well trained?
      I just now have my first horse and I was so lucky to get a month of training and I took my horse with me! So we both had some training but it was really focused on me. I work full time but I managed to put in 20 hours of training a week. It was the best thing for my horse.
      Training a horse is only 1/2 the puzzle. We humans need training also. 🙂

  16. This was a great post. I’m a beginning rider and I am exactly the person you described when you talked about people who want to learn to ride well, but for the enjoyment, not necessarily to compete. I love watching your videos and reading your blog. I’ve learned a lot here!

  17. Hi Callie !! My 2015 blessing has arrived right on time ~~~ you !! Your clear communication & the love you show is outstanding. Grace and I fell in love 8 years ago, against all the understandable objections. A grade horse, only carried kids on a lunge line, good for trail riding, but she kicked etc. & I only rode as a kid. Against odds- her vices & me being in my 40’s- we have been great partners for 8 years now. I worked off her board at a 35 horse show barn, but never a consistent trainer. We are far from perfect, but that’s okay. We can tear up barrels, poles, sort and pen cows, learned to jump small – 3.2 jumps. (She is only 15.2). We have now moved to a 10 horse barn -not going to be crazy anymore & look forward to upcoming dressage lessons. Thank you again Callie – catching up on all your videos and each one makes me want to be with my little quarter horse every minute. She is a twin to Ace !! Thank you again. Ellen

  18. Hi Callie,
    Nice topic … I rode as a kid. I was lucky enough to have a special friend who knew and understood horses almost initately. We never ‘beat’ a horse, she taught me natrual horsemanship before the phrase was coined. We played with he horses, we just did what you do, moved them from pasture to barn, groomed them, put them in the trailer took them to shows. And they always did great. I was the first to ride her 2 year (cuz I was so small), I taught Joker to neck reing without knowing it. Horses learn from horses. Having a nice establish horse helped Joker to learn. I mean I got up on her as a two year old, and we rode. We tried the bit a few times a couple days in a row. And Joker took it fine, one spring day we bridled her, I got on her back (bare back) and we rode with another horse out into the field. We just kept riding. And she had moment now and then about something new … but we just rode in the small town and feilds and rode. Horse training? I did not think so. What I didn’t know then but ‘did and had’ is confidence. I had no idea how much my being relaxed, having a positive mental picture did for my horse. Also #1 think I witnessed but did not know. Horses teach horses.

  19. I grew up around horses and kind of went through the motions of what my family told me to do and how to do it. I wish I’d of paid more attention to the detail of what they were doing and why and how they were doing it and asked questions along the way.

    I also wish that I’d of taken or been encouraged to take lessons. Good thing it’s never to late…because I am now here and there and reading and learning and what I can from ever source out there (some good, some not so good).

  20. A lady trainer did not teach me how to rope! She did teach me the love of the horse….Thank you Callie for adding to the sport!!

  21. Hi Callie…I just stumbled upon your blog and I’m so thankful I did. Reading/listenwing to you helps me ask questions of myself and sort things out. You are a wonderful ‘virtual’ barnmate. I wish I would have stayed with horses after my preteen start (Jumper). If I would have known how many other areas of work with horses there are, I would never have left to pursue others studies. As it were, horses are back in my life forevermore. What I learned late, is that communicating with horses comes natural to me. And I left horses to further pointe ballet studies, so I was naturally conscious of balance & team unity. Tune in years later, I went to school for equine body work. I started volunteering at a local equine therapy riding school. Now helping train volunteers on Horse Handling. I’m thankful for the gift you have of communicating. I now share your blog with all hungry learners. 🙂

  22. Hi Callie

    Your videos are always so inspiring! I started riding just over two years ago, and have recently found myself somewhere between better than beginner classes where I started out riding (I’m 33 years old). As much as I enjoy riding with the kids, and learning to ride on the riding school’s ponies, I have started leasing an eleven year old schoolmaster thoroughbred. He is quite a lazy horse to ride but very forgiving and he makes sure I shine like a star at shows, making up for all my mistakes 🙂 I’ve found that being an adult and riding with other adults around my age has made me doubt myself – most of them have been riding since they were at school, some even since they could walk, so its really daunting because I feel ‘out of their league’ – I’m not as experienced, or as competitive – so I find myself ‘somewhere between the kids and the adults’.
    I feel pressure to train hard and become competitive but after watching your video, you speak to my heart. The part I enjoy ost about horse riding is the learning process, for me and my horse, and seeing the changes we make and the relationship we build. I get no greater joy than helping him overcome his fears (he’s extremely girthy and is known as a biter, especially with impatient people. I’m working him through allowing me to tighten his girth without raising his fear, and he is learning to trust me). We’re growing together and after watching your video I realised – it’s okay to go after your heart – and be yourself – instead of me feeling like I’m in a hole inbetween two worlds, I’ve realised I’m creating my own place inbetween the little kids learning how to ride and competing at school, and the adults who have all been there done that. I ride with my heart and lots of patience, and I believe that one day I will be able to help other adults with horse ‘problems’ as well through helping them to have patience, understand the horse first, and then help them build that part of their relationship with their horse that may be lacking. Thank you for always being yourself in all the posts – you being down to earth in an industry that can be quite hard to fit into has inspired me. Keep doing what you’re doing. xxx

    1. Thank you Lisa! I think you will find a whole community of people here on the blog that are in a very similiar place in their riding lives 😉 It sounds like you are having a great time now and have an awesome “riding life” ahead of you !

  23. Hey callie! I’ve been watching your YouTube channel for a little while now and it’s helped so much with my riding. I also just got a new horse her names Harley she’s a 4 year old quarter horse mare he’s so sweet and smart but she’s barley trained i’ve been working with a little ground work and walk trot in the saddle but here’s the problem I’ve never trained a horse with such little experience and I feel as if I had the right guidance I could do it well in training her so I was wondering If you have any advice for me that you think could possibly help. Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Darlene,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m going to attach an image here showing the progression of training that I use with a young horse – keep in mind this is a broad “bird’s eye view” of general training progression. Training Map
      I do have some programs that might help too if you were interested in something like that…

  24. I rescued my horses 3 years ago and started listening to you a month ago and learned more within this short time than I have in 3 years with trainers.

    Thank you so much!

  25. I think my most “eye opening” skill that I know now and that would have been good to have known back then (I’m talking 45 years ago) is the importance of GROUND WORK. Ground work can be so beneficial to literally everything we do with horses because it gives us that relationship with our horse(before we ever get on his back), it builds the horse’s trust in us, it teaches the horse to behave appropriately and be respectful, (so as not to harm the weaker human), it helps horses become calmer because they are focusing on the handler…and since they can only think of ONE thing at a time they forget about the scary tarp blowing in the breeze, or the barking dog, or that big puddle you want them to cross now and later when you ride, on and on….the list is almost endless! Ground work teaches the horse many many many valuable skills necessary for safety when handling and riding because here is where you can desensitize (to build the horse’s confidence) and sensitize, to gain control before getting on to ride. Control makes us feel safe. We can teach horses most everything (if not everything) from the ground first which makes it easier for the horse to do when we ask him to perform a skill when we’re on him…so it’s never really a NEW skill because he learned the parts of it or basic mechanics of it when we introduced it from the ground! So that’s my “wish I would have know then” favorite. P.S. I always knew about the longeing thing, but mostly it was used only to take the “fresh” out of horses and maybe to teach walk, trot, canter, and whoa…45 years ago! We’ve come a long way in horsemanship to “help the horse” and ourselves.
    Judy Weinmann

  26. I agree with Daisy! I am new to riding, but I have learnt so much from your videos. I agree with what you said Callie, about realising that there were many ways of doing things. You’ve got such intuitive way of explaining techniques that makes it easy to understand and put them into practice. Thank you… I have enjoyed watching your videos since I came across them two months ago!

  27. If I would have known then ….. I wish I would have not gotten frustrated with myself for not “getting it!” and just did my best. By being frustrated , I caused my horse to be frustrated as well.

  28. Hi Callie,
    I’ve learned so much from your videos. I’m 65 and a new English rider. I volunteered to take care of the 6 horses on the ranch for 3 weeks and found out” as a new to horses person” just how hard it could be. I learned the personalities and the shortcomings of each horse. It’s probably like when a class has a substitute teacher and the class, in this case the horses, gaged how much they could get away with. I was bitten not once but twice, really badly by one of the horses. I was pushed into helping with giving lessons and felt the fear of new riders. Trust me , you could have made a whole teaching video from all my mistakes. In fact my husband, who watches your videos with me, wants to send me to you for training. I’d appreciate some info on possible training with you. I did purchase a 10 year old thoroughbred 3 days ago. He’s a retired race horse and the sweetest horse to give lessons to children on. This is a problem though because as I’m doing gymnastics if anyone speaks, he stops because he thinks it’s a lesson! Also he refuses to turn left. My trainer said that it was the bit? He was also tripping a lot. He claims with the new bit it forces him to keep his head up and that I would have more control with the reins? Does this make any sense? How do you determine which bit to use? Perhaps you can inspire us with your wisdom. Thank you for all your informative and caring words. We all learn so much from you.Warmly Caryl

    1. Hi Caryl, thanks for your comment! Sorry to hear of your mishaps along the learning process but rest assured it will get easier! I will send you an email with some info on online training I offer. As far as your question about the bit I can’t really answer without seeing the horse and the bit. I use the most simple bits to start with any horse, either a jointed snaffle or a rubber Mullen mouth and only change from there as training of the horse progresses or depending on the structure of their mouth. The bit should not prevent turning in one direction, I would be more inclined to look for a physical issue here.

  29. Well-how do I break this one down into measurable steps? Even though I was fortunate to have a very “feral” childhood with a special horse-where yes-I made some pretty stupid mistakes and sometimes was not a nice mistress at all…I was evidently forgiven-many times over…and in my thirties I saw a scratchy old video of Ray Hunt working a vivacious youngster and ending with the comment-“The Horse is always right.” It is never about “winning” the ribbon, or the “battle”
    I am forever grateful that you and other inuitive riders who actually have the gift of explanation or the amazing ability to work with many personality and energy levels without getting emotional about it-are willing to share your insights.
    I now think nothing of getting off and walking if I’m feeling like we’re both stressing. I know that this will actually calm us both down and we can go back to riding when things are de-escalated-or-heck-what is wrong with a horse shifting here and there on occasion when tied…or not really feeling up to doing???? today. My perception of “getting away with something, or taking advantage of or being spoiled” is very different-not that I tolerate obnoxious or dangerous behavior-but my approach to changing it is so different…more apt to circling around and trying the first step of a skill again-or down the road and around a bush-or just two more steps or strides than the last time…
    It is good to remember that the Spanish Riding school horses-surrounded by genetics for their future, conformation for their work, consistency of day in and day out care and training-still take up to 12 years to hit their zenith…so what makes me so “focused” on getting anywhere but having a safe and better ride each time I get on and come back?

  30. Hi Callie,
    What I wish I had known is to beware of “the trainer cycle.” By this I mean the way some trainers perpetuate their jobs by moving the horse or the student too quickly so the end result is frustration for the student and poor behavior in the horse. THUS, the need for MORE lessons, more money, and more wasted time. I was quite the sucker for this!
    A philosophy I practiced in the classroom for thirty years. Why it took me so long to recognize it in the arena is beyond me! You are the epitome of an excellent teacher: patient, knowledgeable, confident, and thorough. Your ability to break down instruction into baby steps and draw easy to understand analogies is laudable! Bless you! What I wish I had known then was someone like you.

    1. Hi Suzanne, glad you are here now! It is easy to fall into the cycle, especially if you are brand new to something. Learning should be an overall positive experience 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  31. Interesting question. Reflecting on what we wish we knew in the past can be a valuable exercise for growth and improvement. One thing I wish I knew then about horses and riding is the importance of using mare calming supplement. As a mare owner, I have learned that mares can have different behavior patterns compared to geldings and stallions. Having a mare calming supplement on hand can help to keep mares more relaxed and less reactive to certain situations, which can make training and riding much more enjoyable for both the horse and rider. Thanks for sharing your reflections on horses and riding!

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