I was "employed" in the army, at the age 9 and on. All the riding
was free, paid for by the communist state, but the selection was
difficult, they only took kids age 9-10, and then, it was like boot
camp: do as you are told.
It was that, or no riding at all.
For me, it meant riding 6x a week ... the kids selected for the
riding program had to committ to be trained for competition, army
style. At age 10, the first 3 months were vaulting only, on
vaulting pad. The horse was an Arabian stallion named
Ulysses, a fat grey with a wide back and mellow temperament.
Very few horses were gelded, and basically only after they had
almost killed someone !
To "graduate" to saddle and reins, we kids had to pass a test...
they would build a track around the ring, set up small jumps --
the instructor would ask the horse to go from inside, the rider did
not have to use reins. Then they sent us around at walk, trot,
canter, jump smalll jumps, on the vaulting pad, no stirrups, and
our hands had to be up in the air, no holding on. When we
could do that, we were ready to be rewarded by finaly starting to
use reins and stirrups.... still had to vault once a week for rider
LOL ... I am not teaching this way today!!! LOL I would have no
students at all.... *grin*
I like the way I teach it now much better, but there were good
parts about the old ways, too.
My early education was classical, and as much as there are
things (the boot camp stuff -- do or else) that I totally disagree
with .. I learned lots of good stuff from old-style cavalry trained
officers. Like, having an independent seat. :)
No one talked about positive reinforcement -- yet the classically
trained officers were using positive relelases. Using strong
gimmicks was forbidden, and horses were ridden in a simple
snaffle for jumping and cross-country and eventing, a running
martingale *maybe* allowed.
I also remember the good training of our best dressage horse
trained by one of the officers: after I won the national jr.
dressage championship on him, I was allowed / ordered to
show him jumping... we won!... he was versatile, in shape, and
taught me how well-practiced dressage is the best foundation.
Why I always wanted to ride, no one quite knows. Grew up in
Bucharest, the capital of Romania, under a brutal communist
dictatorship. There was no private property, the state owned and
(mis)managed everything. Athletes, kids too, we were all
quasi-employed, all training paid for, but we had to perform, or
quit, and had to obey, or else. Not a lot of choice.
When the communists took over 1947, they sent all good horses
to slaughter, as they were considered a bourgeois tool of
oppressing the masses. Horse people hid purebloods, the
prized Arabians & TB's under the plow... so they would look like
a poor man's workbeast, not a riding horse. Riding was severly
Except in the Romanian army. Oh, yes, they tried to stomp out
the old cavalry, but keep in mind that the cavalry was active as
late as 1947. My grandpa **fought** on horseback in WWII (got
captured and sent to Siberia)
So, they kept a few outposts of the "cavalry" -- for parades and
such. The officers, all formally trained in classical jumping /
dressage, were happy to work with horses, and hide from
communism in their own little world with the horses.
A Relationship With a Horse that WANTS to be With You
My QH, Gal, 18, is a schoolhorse. She gets ridden about
once-twice a week, more in the summer, by my students who do
not own horses. (I keep a private facility, low-volume lessons, but
also, guided trailrides on and off the property).
Gal sees me, and a student, head up the road. With halter in
hand. Every horse here, except the babies, knows exactly what I
have in mind. Gal approaches us and I'll show a student her
favorite scritchie places, then we proceed to warm up -- make
sure the horse chooses to be with us, mentally -- then we go
brush, saddle, warm up again, and proceed.
When I am done, I take all tack off and turn the horse loose. She
isn't going anywhere, rolls, and comes back to us to hang out.
The icelandics do that as well. And after one month here, so
does the OTTB in training.
Yes, some of the horses, if they are at a certain place in their
training, will sorta hide behind a tree when they see me with
halter and a student or two. But we work on that.
Like Judy, I simply would not want to ride a horse that doesn't
choose to be with me.
Has it been easy? no. I had to learn how to get to this point. (lots
of round pen, groundwork, and riding based on rewards, and
knowing when to stop on a good note, and more)
And, I could not have done it in a boarding situation. I had to
manage the whole herd to get to such a point.
Can I get better ? YES!!! never enough time spend bonding with,
or working with , any single horse belonging to myself. (unless
they are in a training period).
Surprising fact: I have to point out to students or visitors that for
the most part, I "shoo" horses away!!! ;)
catching them is not a problem (with exceptions that we're
I have to teach visitors to know that all of the horses here should
stop about 3 feet from a human, and not approach any closer
than that unless specifically invited closer by a human.
I have to be able to carry a grain bucket on a dark night and
*know* that none of the 7-10 free horses will crowd me, indeed,
they'll wait at 5 or more feet away. ('course I remind them with
subtle or not so subtle body language.)
Light Contact, Bits
Have you ever met people who just did not know how to touch
Hairdressers, nurses, doctors, the dentist's assistant,
salespersons fitting your shoes or dress, ..or , yeah, ... dates ....
Some people are just rough, and don't get it, don't get that
INSTANT adjustment, the testing, that it takes to touch another
human being and not hurt them...yet be firm enough to achieve
the goal, like untangling hair or whatever...;)
On the receiving end, some people are more sensitive than
an experienced nurse / paramedic / physical therapist would
know how to touch in a no-nonsense, effective way, and adjust
their touch to the sensitivity of the subject .
PS: I have pictures of Buck Brannaman and each of us clinic
participants playing horse & rider :) ...
And I do Buck's exercise with my students:
put the bit in the soft part of your hand, between the thumb and
the index finger. Just let the bit rest there. It will feel cold, heavy.
Then, someone can pick up the reins behind you, and you
pretend to run.. they are instructed to stop you by using the reins
as if they were riding a horse.
It is surprisingly easy to:
a) HURT !!
b) if the "rider" pulls once and jerks hard ... the "horse" will
subsequently CLAMP her hands.... and not even be aware of it
(like a hard of mouth horse.)
c) even tho the person playing "rider" is likely more gently on a
runway human than if their horse was running off, they can still
pull incredibly harshly.
Light contact can mean:
-- I can feel in my fingers if the horse as much as moves his
tongue inside his mouth. In fact, sometimes I even release and
reward just for that, if I choose to do so.
-- picking up the slack in the rein is already light contact!
-- tightening fingers on reins is light contact
(like the old saying about the little bird: we hold the reins as if
holding a teeny chick, we don't want to crush it , we don't want it
Prerequitises to having light hands:
- independent seat
- rider's hands belong to the horse's mouth. If my seat dances
the samba in the saddle--not on purpose -- , my elbows will act
as joints that disconnect my poor seat from my hands.
My seat can do *almost whatever* in the saddle, but my fingers
will be able to feel that tongue inside the horse's mouth.
-- sometimes, stronger pressure might be needed, but...I always
pick up the reins very lightly, no jerks, then gradually increase
pressure should it be needed.
Why do I even need stronger pressure?
Ideally, I don't. Practically speaking, I try to *match* the pressure
the horse puts on me.
IE, if the Icelandic Muska used to weigh one ton in each rein it
was she who put the pressure, not me.-- I just did not "give" the
rein to the pressure.
Note: I'd work on that by asking for bending first, and Muska 's
head used to weigh a ton when I asked her to bend.. but we
practice bending the head with halter, from the ground first. And
we lighten up the head by asking for the hindquarters to
Yes, if the horse disengages the hind, the head will get lighter
and bend easier behind the jaw., which will allow me to release
What we teach from the ground is then easier undersaddle.
IE, if a horse "dives" for grass... like a schoolhorse might do
,knowing that little kids will let the reins slilde, and the horse will
be able to grab some grass on the run... I will "hold" the reins,
and the horse might hit them with some pressure ... sometimes,
I have to keep my hands against the saddle, so my hands don't
"give" by mistake to the horse grabbing for grass...
How to teach a horse to get used to light pressure?
by RELEASING the reins when we achieve what we want on light
or no pressure... ie:
when Muska the Icelandic tolts nicely, I'll slightly release the
reins... but keep her tolting with my seat...she keeps tolting for 3
strides say...if I feel the slightest change in her rhythm, I'll pick up
ther reins again (no jerking, just slightly) and reming her, keep
tolting girl... release again, she tolts good for 3 more strides...
and I will then ask her to walk (by slowing down my seat) as a
reward, and I'll pet her etc.
(This was just an example, as with time and as the horse gets
strong enough to tolt, obviously we'll increase the lenght of it
untill we tolt as long as I don't ask for anything different.)
of something Lee wrote in a post ...
I am a total supporter of the teachings of Buck, Tom and Ray.
I hesitate to call my style natural horsemanship, given that the
name is Parelli's biz name and has come to encompass the rest
of us. Just reminding everyone here that Tom Dorrance refuses
to give his method a name, he sais it's just common sense, and
how can one *copyright* common sense...
I fully agree with Lee saying that an old style accomplished and
well trained rider with good attitude ... riding in a full spade bit
and 2-in spurs on full regalia western saddle... is better with and
for a horse who has been appropriately trained for that level, ...
the horse is soft, responsive, not hurting...
some young yahoo riding in a halter bareback who pulls / prods
his horse..."naturally" ... or rides in poor, uncollected, manner
that will hurt the horse in the long run.
Personally, I learned best from Buck... but it was anything but an
instant process. Takes time and dedication, like all good
The One-Rein Stop
The 1-rein-stop is a bit more complex if it is to work properly in a
First and foremost: my goal as a rider is to stop:
a) the horse's fear (get his attention back to me, be sure I am not
gripping in fear)
b) stop his feet. (it's really about the feet, not the reins or mouth)
c) promptly release and reward the smallest softening, the
smallest response to me
That's the key:
To slow down, circle and stop a horse, we need to disengage
the hind. I ask actively with my inside leg behind the girth, for the
horse to disengage, and stop asking (reward) with my leg ASAP
after the horse turns the hindquarters.
Disengaging is a forwards movement, so if the horse backs at
all while practicing this at a stop or walk, it's not ok.
When I practice this at a walk, I also make sure the horse turns
at the shoulders as correct for all bending.
The one -rein-stop is not effective and downright dangerous
(horse can fall and / or run off with head turned to the side, yes
they can do that) unless the hindquarters disengage, and the
horse is in a proper frame for bending. Do not attempt
1-R-stops on hillsides. The 1-r-stop is a good exercise, not a
punishment -- do it sooner, don't wait untill a runaway gets faster
and faster. The bend doesn't have to be excessive.
1. Turn my body, and when the horse's inside hind leg leaves the
ground, ask for disengaging. Timing is important, allows the
disengaging to flow smoothly and lessens the chance of
tripping. For practice with my students, if we go left, they call out
"left, left, left, (to pick up the rhytm) and LEFT when they decide
to ask for disengaging. Release riders's leg ASAP .
2. smoothly pick up the inside rein. The inside hand acts as a
guide, lets rein glide through -- I use the outside hand to pull the
rein trough and increase the bend gradually. At first, do not
bend too much, and watch for the "softening" , the give, behind
the jaw. Release fingers slightly on the rein for that This is
reward number 2, again I release even in a "hot" situation, horse
gets a small reward before we came to a complete stop.
Ask for more bend, if you need to, and again, reward with a slight
release, but not a complete one.
3. if you were practicing from a slow wallk or standstill, step 3. is
to WAIT. Patiently wait for the horse to come to a complete halt.
Your legs are relaxed, body turned, and you keep constant
pressure on the inside rein, horses's head still bent. Be sure to
have slack in the outside rein, many riders do not realize they are
keeping pressure on the outside rein.
If the horse is still moving... as he will and is desirable if you
were at a faster walk or gait ... you would be moving in a circle,
and repeat 1. and 2.
4. horse comes to a complete halt. WAIT some more (relaxed
seat/legs). Do not release the inside rein untill the horse "gives"
and softens, but when the horse does, you need to "drop" the
rein, meaning, do not let the horse slide the rein through your
fingers, just let go of the inside rein and rub /verbally praise
(your outside hand holds the loose reins now, but you are ready
to gather them up in an **instant** should the horse move before
Common rider error:
a) not releasing inside leg after asking for disengaging (rider is
tense and forgets to relax the leg)
b) It's called a 1-Rein-stop-- be sure to not pull on the outside
rein. Horse cannot turn his head all the way around if we keep
tension on both reins, plus, some horses begin to consider
backing or rearing if there is pressure on both reins.
Timing issues: rider needs to practice:
-- release the inside leg, but not the inside hand- not until the
horse's head weighs nothing, puts no pressure on the inside
-- practice smoothly gathering reins, especially longer rope
reins. (sounds like a trivial issue, but it takes practice or else we
won't do it well under pressure.)
Note: we teach the horse to disengage, and bend/give the head
from the ground, then practice separately in the saddle. Horses
diffrentiate very well between: bend head, keep feet still. Or move
hindquarters, without bending the head. Then we combine them
in a smooth motion, the 1-rein-stop....
More About Disengagement
"I have seen plenty of horses run sideways with a rider on
board, nose bent
to the knee, hind quarters "disengaged" and horse running like
Dangerous and not very useful, IMO ..."
As much as I am a supporter of the 1-rein-stop (and would like to
rename it, so it's about seat&legs not just reins) ....
I agree with the above. I've seen it too.
I'd probably call it "fake" disengaging, because if the horses
would be truly soft thru the bend, they'd stop.
('course if they are truly soft a dangerous runaway just wouldn't
happen, it wouldn't get that far in the first place, and they would
stop with 2-reins and straight).
IMO there is no "EASY" fix for anything...I saw John Lyons ask
students to bend a horse's head 300 times!!!
So much is about the details of how we do what we do, and
when. Still, when I teach a 1-R-stop to newbies, it does drive
the point home that pulling on both reins equally is not effective.
A few notes:
-- For me, the one-rein-stop helps with a lot of other issues ...
the way Buck does it ... the way I teach it...
-- theoretically , a horse that is advanced enough to go in the
curb never needs to be doubled up. If the horse does not stop
with the rider using mainly seat aids, then he is not ready for the
curb. That goes for Peruvians full of brio as well as for the
seemingly more laid back western horse.
-- after the stop, we practice shifting the weight back, and
moving the front feet. It can be an interesting way to practice
shifting the weight from hind to front to hind. Sometimes I
demonstrate by getting on all fours in the arena and seeing how
I have to shift my weight to turn on my haunches or my hands !!!!
(it really drives the point home if one tries *g*) Yes, the basis for
this is "western".. and can be the first step in teaching to spin.
The way I do it (I learnead the basic procedure from
Buck/Ray/Tom, and adapted it to suit whatever situations I find
1. do it early .. I define a runaway as any horse who takes one
step in a faster gait, or at a faster speed, than I asked for.
So, if want a horse (who is capable of doing this exercise) move
forwards inch by inch at a snail's pace and he walks on at a slow
walk, the slow walk is a "runaway" Just trying to drive the point
home of "correcting early."
2. direction: in an arena, turn inside, so you have space to circle.
Outside: pick a flat open space. For instance, it is preferable to
steer a runaway to a suitable spot 20-50ft ahead-- say a driveway
-- than try to circle/ stop in a tight place like on a narrow shoulder
of a road. (there is more to this point 2: how to best steer to the
closest safe spot)
3. legs aids:
I never do the western thing as described by Lee. I just wasn't
taught this way.
I will use my right leg oh-so-slightly behind the girth, "open" to
the right, turn my eyes, shoulder, hip, knee to the right.
I will ask with the slightest of pressure, start light as feather AS
ALWAYS!!. Always, always give a horse a chance to do the right
thing -- they do surprise us and actually "obey" even the slightest
aid sometimes, yes, even in a panicky moment.
However, increase the pressure withing 1/10 of a sec or so, this
is no time to wait if the horse ignores us. When I say "increase
pressure" I mean increase the tap-tap-tap pressure, which is
easier on the rider ...constant pressure doesn't work.
To teach my horses how to differentiate betwen a rider clumsily
cluthing with the leg by mistake and a rider using a leg aid, I
tend to use a leg aid by tap-tap-tapping on the horse in quick
taps. The lightest of taps are invisible, merely a rhytmical
tightening of my calf, but they are very clear, to me, as well as to
the horses, they are very distinct from a constant pressure aid
that the horse could conceivaably confuse
(riders tend to apply constant pressure with legs to steady
themselves on horse or simply because rider is not advanced
enough to be aware of what the body does.)
Right leg should stop tapping ASAP the horse moves haunches
over, but if I decide we need to soften more, or need to move
more, I'll ask again for disengaging. Very important to keep in
mind that this all is a forward motion. It's this "forwards in a
circle) that prevents bucking sprees.
I often ask for a few times of "disengaging the hind" -- release
the leg (wich is a reward for the horse... and also lets the horse
know it did "good", this is what I wanted .. this is our "calming"
dance, horses really learn to concentrate on the job of
disengaing/ circling and thrive on the releases)... in the course of
the same 1-rein-stop.
In turning to the right, since my whole body is turned right, my
outside leg (left) will be oh-so-slightly in front of the girth, left
knee sort of pushing into the saddle. Left leg does nothing...
although I might use the left leg to "block" (very slight tap-tap's)
should the horse think of taking off to the left,( while bent to the
4. Right hand acts like a guiding hand, but I pull the rein through
with the left. Right hand asks with feather light pressure. Always
start asking with the lightest pressure you can. ALWAYS, even in
an emergency... if the horse even looks as if it'll turn his head,
oh-so-slightly release pressure on rein, but be sure to have very
frim grip and make sure the horse cannot pull the rein t hrough
you hand, then ask some more, release for the next small bend,
and graddually increase bend. Right hand goes around and
back to rider's belt, in fact I steady my right (inside) hand on my
tight or waist.
Left (outside ) hand lets the left rein loose, sliding through if
needed, so the horse can bend right. Left hand helps pull the
right rein trhgouh the right hand, so it's a smooth pull l all the
way, NEVER JERKY, not even with a runaway. ( I would not
dream of jerkyin' on a young horse's mouth!!! -- not even in an
emergency, but I do quickly increase pressure if needed )
Left hand is ready to grab the mane and help steady the rider.
I can't emphasise enough that the 1-rein-stop sequence works
for me because I am able to "reward" the horse many, many
times before we come to a complete stop. The teensy releases
in rein, and leg, the combination of asking/ reward seems to
keep the horse's mind occupied **while** we are doing the
1-rein-stop, and take the mind back to me, away from the
gremlins in the bushes.
It is obvious it takes practice and repetion... like every thing else,
like anythign we do on horses, like playing an instrument, like
flying a plane, like being a good gymast, dancer, paramedic, or
whatever. To be able to do something well under pressure
takes many repetitions.
Reluctant Horse That Rears
I am glad you
are asking this question here.
The problem is, IMO this problem cannot be solved with a few
words of advice in writing. If a horse rears often as you just try to
ask him to go forwards, we are dealing with a situation that
needs to be looked at carefully. I strongly advise that you take a
few lessons or attend a clinic or such, where an instructor can
evaluate both your riding style and your horse. Even though you
have not experienced rearing before while riding other horses,
this horse may be more sensitive. And you may cause him to
rear, wich of course is not your intention. Or, someone else let
him get away with rearing in his past. And, it has become a
habit, he already knows he can do it, and it gets more difficult to
change what he does. To change his behavior, you need to
change what you are doing before he rears up.
Asking a reluctant horse to go forwards:
(this has worked well with Iceys, and really works with all
I'll start by moving front feet a bit left
(look left, take left rein out, forwards, and sideways, 'bout a foot
or so away from withers).
Reward by stopping kicking, slack left rein) the a bit right
(reward), then after the horse is "unstuck" ask for a small circle
right, then left, as long as we are moving we are ahead of the
game, and with every circle, I go forwards towards where I want
to go in the first place.
It's difficult to rear if a horse is bent. If a horse is truly bent
through the whole body, like when you ride a circle correctly, he's
unlikely to rear.
If you feel his front end get too light, take the inside rein out and
Avoiding a rear if I feel a horse is getting ready to:
1. ) FORWARDS!
ask with my legs, very quickly escalate to kicking, When I ask, I
ask with rhytmical movements, and I escalate into many kicks,
usually with emphasis. I want the horse to see I am kicking, it's
not the force of my "kick" per se (I'm the one who wants to avoid
using the word "kick," but when I rhytmically ask my horse to
move, there's no doubt in anyone's mind what I am asking.)
I'll extend my hands forwards and keeping them low so the rein
is getting a slack and allowing the horse to move forwards.
I assume you are riding 2 handed, if you are using one hand, go
to 2 reins so you can keep your hands low.
It is very important that the horse has a slack rein as you ask him
to go forwards. This is one of those duh! statements in writing,
but when we are in the heat of action, I have seen it too many
times that riders are not aware of having pressure on the reins
when they did not mean to. Even the best riders need
instructors/ coaches sometimes!
If he even thinks you kick and pull at the same time -- that's a
cue for rearing.
But, I won't have the hands symetrically next to the neck. It is very
important to be ready to bend the horse, in fact, ask for a bend.
The inside hand will go low and out, outside hand goes up the
If the horse starts to rear, I'd be ready to grab the mane with one
hand at least, or grab around his neck with one arm, if our
saddle does not have a horn.
The slight asymetry in hand position is important, because it
leads to the next part of our body, our
At the same time, my upper body goes forwards, as if you were
about to jump a fence. Or go uphill on a steep hill.
Forwards, but again not 100% straight over the mane. I always
keep my face very slightly to the side -- more precisely, to the
inside of the slight bend I am asking the horse to do, and have
so avoided being hit in the face by a horse's head coming up.
this all happens before a rear, once a horse rears, do not bend,
just be forwards, grab the neck / mane, and be ready to
rhytmically kick as he goes down so you can keep asking him to
2.) forwards and sideways in a circle
Part of the problems we riders have, is that, WHAT IF the horse
actually responds to our kicks / use of crop, and actually *bolts*
I know very few people who then truly praise the horse, do not
clamp with their legs for balance, and are not immediately
pulling on reins to slow him down!!!
Personally, being that I seldom train in arenas with good footing,
a horse that actually obeys and vigourously goes forwards can
be in danger of slipping, stepping in a hole, etc .
In a good arena, I'd pet while the horse goes on, and I'd
encourage a good gallop with long reins.
Outside, well, no, I can't quite do that, it's not safe.
And I have the same problem with things I consider dangerous,
like water balloons or hitting a horse on the head: while you hit
the horse on the head, you are in a bad position to coordinate
what happens next, and I for one, I would not want to be riding a
horse while I'm popping one with a water baloon in the head.
If I were inclined to pop balloons over a horse's head, I would
SURE not be riding it the first time I pop one, I'd be "sacking out"
with it in a safe place. (which would make baloons not scary
enough to "cure" rearing, therefore unusable in that manner.)
Yes, teaching a horse to lower his head is a good thing,
something we better horses anyways, rearing or not. I teach
them to lower their heads if I lower my hands, apply slight
pressure to the bit, and wait. (release when he softens chin and
It is also a perfectly good exercise to teach horses to lower their
head by touching the mane half-way to the ears, and yes, at the
poll ( a useful thing when bridling.)
But we still need to ask the horse to move forwards, reward
when he does.
That's part of the reason why, when I ask a reluctant horse to
move on , I'll ask for a step small enough -- I mean training step,
but in this case, litterally a small step -- that he'll actually do it,
giving me an opportunity to reward.
Compare that to a horse thinking, gee, I am scared to death to
abandon the safety of the barn / other horses, this is a new
owner, new place, who knows what allien goblins await 10 feet
away over there, -- horses refuses to move, we kick hard , horse
thinks, why is this rider loosing it , doesn't she see the goblins,
doesn't she know they'll gobble up all beings away from the
safety of the herd, horse rears only to be hurt when he does by
being hit, ... and everyone walks away unhappy.
When I "unstick" the legs by asking for him to move the front feet
to one side and the other, then move hind, then move forwards , I
just set him and myself up for a way to increase trust.
Be sure to reward the slightest try of your horse to move forwards
Pressure on the Poll
I do keep pressure at the poll while urging the horse
forwards. I start teaching them that on the ground. (release
presure if horse lowers head even a tad with softness and give,
then start again to lower head even more, long release and
praise when the head is where we want it).
I am working on this right now with an Icelanding mare, and it's
funny, because she is small, and I have to bend to keep
pressure on the poll while urging her forwards from the ground.
I do this by asking the horse to lower his head (a forwards low)
by applying pressure on the leadrope (say with left hand), so the
pressure on the poll comes through the halter. I ask them to go
forwards by driving with the right hand.
Then, I can do it under saddle, like I said, by asking with one rein
forwards & low& a tad sideways. (similar to what Lee wrote)
This comes to mind because I am working with a TB right now,
and she used to sling her head up high everytime I urged her on,
from the ground as well as in the saddle. Guess someone in
her past must have clamped on the bit while asking her
forwards. Yes, she did try to rear as we were leaving the barn, I
was on foot doing groundwork .
So over time, I've been teaching her that she can move on with a
Eventually, as we progress, this is no different than asking a
horse to move forwards with a soft feel, or half-halt. On
advanced horses, yes, definitely, we can very well ask them
forwards while asking them to collect and we won't have to push
our hands forwards or have visible slack on the rein. The hands
will move forwards with the horse's mouth, keeping appropriate
Or, in a bridle, there is slack in the reins, but then the slightest
almost invisible contact with a bridle will put pressure on the poll
via shanked bit -- and the horses should be light enough to go
forwards and lower the head to wherever the rider asks them to
via bridle, but this is at an advanced stage where horse knows
how to work from behind already and the rider / horse team have
ironed out unintentional miscues.
Working with a Problem Icelandic Horse
"The rescue / rehabs were difficult. There is a tendency
in some of the horses, maybe too much inbreeding, or
breeding for hotness.
Those horses may never be reliable. Some don't seem to
learning from day to day. Some from those lines have been
Interesting info, Judy. I was puzzled that one of the imported
Icelandic mares I 've known for 4 years-- seems to regress
unless I handle her a lot. All other horses I work with remember
over time, but not Muska.
She must have been abused. Especially since she seems to
have deep-seated fears of being approached suddenly -- her
muscles het hard and tight, and I can see her eyes starting to
bug out. If I however am careful to approach her like a colt, ie
with deliberate moves like showing her the saddle pad
emphatically everytime, she's fine. I've spent time just
massaging and scratching her, and just today, I could see in her
expression that she was deciding if she should give in and relax
and enjoy a good scratch, or should she worry and be tight? :)
She does ok under saddle, she became my saddle horse when
I'm there and no one else rides her. She must have been
abused / scared / handled too rough.
She's lighter now, responsive, and not spooky on trails. She still
is suspicious of sudden moves by the rider though, -- the
sacking-out is where she regresses most . Today, I had to
*show* her the saddle bags, and the camera, etc... but she was
fine after that.
But, she is one of 4 mares owned by the same family, and 2 of
the mares are darlings everyone rides, including the 4 year old
(with my close supervision). The 3rd is beautiful, athletic
buckskin I can ride everywhere on difficult trails, sensitive. After I
worked with her, she now is safe for her owner.
I am getting ready to start their 2 colts under saddle, they are
coming up on 4yrs. One's a gelding, one a stud...they lead, haul,
pick up feet, and the stud is well behaved around the mares and
gets along great with my Arabian stud.
And I just got a new boarder, a 2 year old Icelandic stud. :) He
kept me busy :) will keep you posted, we took videos of all the
with 5 Icelandics, 2 of which are young studs
Keeping Up With Other Horses
I have found that I cannot keep up with my clients when they ride
thier Iceys and I ride Arabians or QH .. not unless I do medium
trot to keep up with their (even shuffly , slow) tolt :)
So I have to ride Iceys to keep up!
I do not know about RMH... I 've ridden a couple of fit Peruvians
who would be able to gait faster .. in terms of trailriding together
... than some of the out-of-shape Iceys that my clients ride only
occasionaly. I have not had occasion (yet) to ride an in-shape
tolting Icelandic with a PP.
And, there is nothing wrong with enjoying one's Icelandic
occasionally only. Whatever works for each of us is cool, training
for fitness should be fun, not a chore.
So I'm wondering if you experience with the RMH - Icey trailride
was just a one time fluke (Icey had an off day or something) or is
getting up to speed something you'd like to work on with your
Not to mention that at this time of year, Iceys have a heavy coat
on, and it's warm outside here in CA. Mine are dripping wet if we
even think about exercising in mid-day. The coats are so thick,
that by the time I notice the dripping wet part, they are soaked!
However, there are many other factors, ranging from:
** fitness of the Icelandic
**to saddle fit
**to where they are in their relationship with us riders:
-- in terms of trust,
-- training level,
-- freedom to move forwards,
-- good use of hind,
-- and, can we ride without constant pressure in the mouth?
If you need trouble shooting, do post again to that effect, with
more details ... :)
and, my .2 cents: there are no stubborn horses. Only horses
who a) cannot physically do what we ask b) are confused about
what we ask, and do not understand our request, or are not in a
position to do what we ask (we asked too much too soon.)
Hot, Nervous, Sensitive?
Yes, and this too is something newbies need good information
on, not always easily accesible to them. Discerning where a
horse is naturally, genetically hot, or just trained to be
hot-sensitive is not always an easy task. If I'm asked to evaluate,
I usually tend to test my first impression, and not offer an instant
label on a horse I don't know.
As to most normal-use horses, I like also to have them be able
to ignore when a rider dangles the legs to play!
We practice ( I do that when training too) having our seat be still,
our body posture saying "rest, relax, stay", and having no "intent"
or "energy" (whatever that is) telling the horse "forwards."
may dangle my legs as if to strech and relax, or as if to adjust a
boot, or adjust the leggings, or such., adjust stirrups in English
saddles, etc. If the horse leans forwards as if to start walking, I'l
pick up on the reins and ask for soft feel / shift weight back / step
back., release. Pretty soon, horses know that "leg-dangling"
means rider's playing. But *asking* with the legs & seat HAS to
have a different feel than "playing."
I've done lots of that with Muska, family owned problem-Icey .
I tend to ask first-time riders to book a few private lessons, but at
least one, before attempting to go in a group.
In that first private lesson I have *often* let a total greenie ride
my sensitive horse in the barn, the one who does turn left when I
merely look left.
after a longish introduction to horses, to the training goals etc,
and after demonstrations from the ground or after I
I set up that first time ever ride in a safe round pen or smaller
arena at home... and I know 100% that I can controll that horse
from the ground :) and *show* that to the rider...
Nevertheless, people have the most amazing first time
experience if they let me coach them through... (no reins) .. look
left.. keep your arms straight out... let your gaze follow your
fingertips as they point to that tree... let your shoulders turn ...
now allow your hips to turn.. relax your hips.... notice that your
inside leg goes back, outside leg presses a bit into the saddle
as it goes just a smidgen forwards... (I may touch their ankles to
notice if they are truly relaxing their legs)... and the horse WILL
TURN at that point, at a standstill... and I emphasise how the
first time rider has just turned a horse without reins ... they
('course the horse may turn because of where my body is at, but
that 's besides the point :)
Then I ask them to "imagine" they want to walk "there to that
cone" NOW!, and please just start WAlking... and the horse
walks on... please "freeze" NOW.... and the horse stops...
..the riders just GLOW ! :)
(again, I "help" the horse but how I move/ stop --and yes, I can
pick up the lead rope anytime, I'm close enough to do so, but I
want the first -time rider to have the feeling of having done it by
Then, I tell them... you won't ride this horse again ... next time,
you will ride so&so, and she will be different, not as easy ... but I
want you to remember how *you* could control this horse with
I have done this with both my personal "hot" mare Sony, but also
with Flotty, a gorgeous black, **hothothot** Icelandic gelding at
Icelandic Crest. (after I had known Flotty awhile of course)
I was thinking we need to talk about defining, and adjusting
To define: sensitivity is how quickly (time) or the amount of
pressure (force) that we get a response from a device, a thing
like a car or airplane, or a system (the legal system for instance)
Cars' sensitivity is adjusted from factory to fit us, the majority of
the buying public.
In Germany, none of the small cars had power steering. When I
came to California, I was *horrified* LOL to drive with power
steering, because I could not feel the road!!! The cars with
power steering would :
a) take WAY TOO LONG to turn
b) the wheel was turning, but the car wasn't !!!
( someone loaned me an ol' "classic" boat-type car!! A
collectible , if you will :) and I was *hating* it ;) after the sporty
Point being, the "sensitivity " of cars is adjusted by technicians. A
race car is adjusted to be more sensitive to an experienced
driver & crew --- betcha they don't loan the car to another driver
AS a trainer, I am asked to train a youngster for "anyone can ride"
goal in life, I will "adjust" the horse to NOT be too sensitive, as a
matter of fact, I have to start riding that horse like most other
people would --
But if I'm working on a prospect for an owner who desires a
close partnership with one horse, well then, the 3 of us, owner,
horse, and I can work on a "very" sensitive horse ....
Obviously, the temperament of the 3 of us working together is
important... but yes, we can teach a fast horse to slow down, and
"lazy" one to pick up life, etc... as long as the rider knows his/her
part in the process. If a horse is sold to "green" riders, the slower
horse might revert (somewhat anyways, over time) to being
Anyways, this is a discussion for another post sometime ...I''d be
nice to hear Lee and Liz on this...
we desire "sensitive", but (too much) brio may not be everyone' s
cup of tea....
who sometimes enjoys riding her good ol' schoolhorse mare
who is not super-sensitive (just smart and alert and nice)
Riding by the "Seat"
My personal way comes from watching how the horse moves side to
What seems to work for me is a side-to-side rock in my seat,
timed in synch with the horse's hind legs -- and to that, add the
"forwards" seat cues, as in walk on, or energy and intent to move
forwards. (kinda hard to explain). Upper body straight ,but not
leaning back. Rhythm: slow for slow tolt, faster if desired.
If I keep my body "dancing" in that fashion and keep that rhythm,
the horse is supposed to keep on tolting...
If I stop my movement, like, "freeze" my seat, the horse is
supposed to notice, and slow down, into a stop even. In fact, i
make sure with all horses I ride, that I stop my seat a fraction of
second before I even start asking with the reins.
This is really no different than using the seat to keep walking,
trotting , or cantering, it's just that I am sure others have slightly
An imperfect analogy is a swing: the swing swings if a child
swings seat and legs... ( geeze, it's late, sorry for the sentence
!!!) :) If the child stops moving the swing will slow down.
But a horse is more complex than a simple swing.
After a lots of practice, this techniques lets me walk, trot, stop,
back, canter, etc,... bridleless. Add the tolt for tolters... But riding
bridleless is not the goal here, the goal is to have light contact
and not depend on pulling.