8 Ways It’s More Fun To Horse Around With Friends

Horse around with friends

Let's be real. Riding, in and of itself, is a social activity even when there aren't other people in the arena with you. There's you. There's your horse. And there are so many conversations and communications that go on between the two of you that it's never really a lonely kind of activity.

In fact, riding your horse can be something akin to hanging out with your best friend, even if your best friend has four legs!

However.

There is one thing that can make it even better.

Sponsored Video: Equine Omega Complete

Throw a few people and their horses together in a mix and see what happens. These people not only share in your joy and passion for the horse, but also get the same thrill of accomplishment when participating in horse-related activities. 

You can:

  • all work hard together in the indoor arena: this is when you're all on a roll - together. Transitions, bends, quality of movement. The fun part is that by riding together, you sort of feed off each other's energy. The horses do too. The activity level is inspiring!

 

  • weave to and through each other's paths without skipping a beat or getting in each other's way. Think of an impromptu musical ride except that there's no music and there's no set pattern. You all go where you want, do what your horse needs to do, without skipping a beat. No one interrupts the other. You always find room, and you STILL get to stick to your own program. Change directions, take a diagonal line, or simply stay on circles - it makes no difference because there is plenty of room because you're ALL mobile.

 

  • take turns trying something and commenting on each other's skills. Like a trot to canter transition. Or a flying change. Or improving longitudinal suppleness from your leg and seat! There are so many things you can work on, each taking turns, giving the other horses a rest, and then discussing not only the feedback from each person (the rider included), but also what your horse had to say about it. What did he have to say about what you did? Did he release tension, soften over the top line?

 

  • walk side-by-side in an active stretchy walk while you chat during cool down. Save the chatting for the end, when all is done. Get into a free-walk groove (stretchy, active). Get the horses walking together, taking turns on the inside or outside track (the inside horse will have to walk slower while the outside horse will have to cruise). Walk and talk like this for 10 minutes, 15 minutes? Depends on what you have to talk about! But in the meantime, your horses cool down while learning to move freely, get some low-impact conditioning under their belts, and learn to not only accept other horses right beside them, but even enjoy walking in company!

 

  • take turns sloshing through the wet creeks on the trails! Because even though the winding path, the swishing sound of the leaves underhoof, and nature's glorious aromatherapy are enough reasons for a wonderful afternoon outing, crossing that creek on the way home is a splashing highlight! You'll remember the giggles while the horses drop back to let the other horses lead the way. Which one is the bravest?

 

  • head out to watch a day-long clinic, soaking in the information, deliberating on new understandings with your friends during lunch. Auditing a clinic is like taking a mini-vacation from the regular routines of life, because not only do you get to learn, but you also get to see beautiful horses and riders become even more brilliant as their sessions proceed. 

 

  • go on a multi-night horseback riding trip - with your own horses! Explore parts of the country that you've never seen (and never will get to see again) that can only be accessed by horses or all-terrain vehicles. Camp under the darkest of nights while hearing the rustling of your horses' movements, their soft, sleepy breathing sounds - because they are tethered just across the campsite!

 

  • decorate the barn for the holidays! You know that one's on my mind because Christmas is on the way. Beautiful, glitter-ful sparkly decorations brighten up the barn especially as the days shorten and the nights get longer, giving the horses something to stare and snort at as they walk down the aisle!

I'm sure you have many other situations that are better with friends and their horses. Let me know in the comments some of your favorite horsing around moments!

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Now is the time to re-evaluate your goals and path to riding success!

If you’d like a structured, but personal tool to set goals, take a look our Goal Setting for the Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. The pages are designed for you to set and keep track of your progress over the course of a year.

Included in the book:

  • design your overarching goals
  • long- and short-term planning,
  • debrief your special events such as clinics or shows
  • reflect on, plan and evaluate your goals
  • sample goals and pages

The Workbook is available for instant digital download so you can print the pages right off your computer. There is also the option of a paperback version if you’d rather have a professionally bound book to hold in your hands.

Click here for more information.

Goal Setting For The EquestrianRead more here:

Eight Legs Plus Two: A poem.

5 Common Horse and Riding Myths: Do you regularly find yourself explaining/educating/justifying/rationalizing/defending your “horse habit”? Then this article is for you!

Good Day For A Little Horseplay: Snort, snort, snort, SNORT! My gelding couldn't tell me in any clearer terms how much he was enjoying the moment.

Living in Flying Changes: I wrote this short poem after a wonderfully exhilarating night ride.

14 Reasons to Love Horseback Riding: There must be hundreds of reasons why people enjoy horses and horseback riding. Here are fourteen.

Giveaway Winners and Black Friday Sale

20000 Likes On Facebook

So it happened yesterday! The Horse Listening Facebook page passed 20,000 Likes!

To celebrate, I asked readers to leave a comment about what they're best at with their horses. I really enjoyed reading the amazing responses! I did a random draw of five winners for a digital copy of Goal Setting For The Equestrian: A Personal Workbook.  Scroll down to see the winners' names and comments. Please contact me at fwdnrnd@gmail.com to receive your eBook.


First Ever Black Friday Sale!

(This is just fyi, as regular readers of Horse Listening.)

Digital Book Bundle

In late 2016, I changed my website platform so that I could sell digital products straight off the site. This allows me to have control over the pricing of my own products for the first time. Which means that I can finally offer a Black Friday sale!

So for the first time ever, I will have a 50% off sale on not one, but BOTH digital books - in a bundle - that are currently offered on my site. If you've always wanted to get either Goal Setting For The Equestrian: A Personal Workbook, or Five Years Of Horse Listening (a collection of the top 20 articles on the site at the 5-year anniversary mark), you can buy both for just $5.99 - ONLY ON NOVEMBER 24, 2017.

The 50% discount is only for the bundle - both books in one purchase.

Simply go our special Black Friday page and purchase through PayPal, as usual. The sale price will be in effect from 12 a.m. Nov. 24 until 12 a.m. Nov. 25 (EST).

* All digital book regular prices will increase as of Jan 1, 2018.


Giveaway Winners

Thank you to everyone who took the time to answer the following question. Here are the five winners.

What is something you and your horse are good at?

Angie Judson: We are good at meeting new challenges and growing together as partners.
bumblebumble: We are good at the mounting block. She can sidestep right up to me to hop on. A great way to start the ride with success.
Kristie: We are good at knowing each other’s moods.
 elizabeth ledger: Adjusting to the situation, filling in for each other 😉 Love that horse!
 
Lois Moran: Doing our best for each other no matter how easy, new or hard it may be.
Please contact me at fwdnrnd@gmail.com if you are a winner.

Horse Leading Essentials – In 5 Minutes Or Less

Horse Leading Essentials
Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

 

You can do this before AND after your ride, to and from the field, or whenever you have a chance to be at your horse's side.

It's nothing special really, as it should be part of your regular handling routine.

But as we all know, we tend to let our expectations slide from time to time, then more regularly, until at some point (maybe when we get pushed into or dragged off with), we remember that we really should be doing this ALL. THE. TIME.

If you're familiar with Showmanship in the Western Performance Classes, then maybe you actually DO do this all the time! But I'm sure most of us don't!

What is it?

Well, it's a simple leading routine. But I wonder how many of us do this regularly?

Exercise 1

The goal of this exercise is to get your horse to walk with you, at your side.

For the sake of clarity, I'm going to be very particular:

  • horse's head is at your shoulder
  • horse walks at your speed
  • horse doesn't go ahead of you
  • horse doesn't lag behind
  • no pull on the lead to make the horse go (visual cues only)
  • no verbal cues (yes! Get the horse tuned into your body language)

Walk on:

Your horse should start walking as soon as your shoulder starts to move forward. So the horse's cue is that you start walking (no leaning forward or giving any extra indication that you're going to walk - no, not even a cluck verbal cue). He should stay with his head at your right shoulder at all times.

If your horse isn't familiar with this and needs some help to understand to "tune in" to your shoulder, you may need to carry a crop with you to urge him forward as you start walking. I would hold it in my left hand and tap him from behind me, while the right hand continues to be steady on the lead. However, the end of the lead rope is likely just fine. Swing it behind you and that will probably get your horse walking on.

Halt:

The only cue for halting is that you stop walking.

Again, the horse's head should stay at your shoulder. So he shouldn't keep walking after you've stopped.

If he does keep walking, use the lead rope and pull back until he stops. Repeat many times until he responds to your shoulder.

Once your horse responds regularly, you can move on to

Exercise 2

After the halt, do a back up.

The goal is to have the horse backing up without fuss - no pulling on the lead - sharply, straight and using diagonal pairs of legs.

  • your body is positioned slightly to the left of the horse (exactly where you were leading from)
  • the horse walks at your speed backward
  • his body is straight and the your line of travel is straight
  • your lead stays in the right hand, ideally no extra pressure or shaking of the lead
  • horse uses diagonal pairs of legs (as in, slow, stilted steps are not what we're looking for)



To initiate the back-up, halt first. Then s-l-o-w-l-y turn your body to face the horse. This will give the horse time to see that you are no longer going forward, and that you are preparing for the back-up.

As you turn, your left shoulder will start to turn into the horse's space.

The horse should then back out of that space, at the speed of your walking steps. Go fast enough for him to use diagonal pairs as he's backing.

If your horse needs help getting started, once again, I use the end of the lead rope and swing it in the direction of his chest, right between the front legs. The motion of the lead is usually enough to get the horse to start moving his feet.

Back up enough steps to

a) get the horse out of your space

b) build momentum

c) go straight

The key to getting a good back-up is to have lots of energy. Again, the final picture is that the horse should literally start backing up as you turn your left shoulder into "his space."

Well, that's it!

Sounds really simple but I wonder how many of us are that particular when we're leading the horse....

Do it when your horse least expects it. Walk forward, stop, turn to face the horse, back up, stop, face forward and walk on. Again and again until your horse is your shadow. Play with the speed - slow, then fast, then slow. Be sure to praise all his efforts.

Why do this exercise? 

Most of all, it's for the safety of the ground person. It sets up a bubble for you ("my space") and a bubble for your horse to be in ("your space"). It teaches your horse to walk alongside you - which we all know is so important especially when leading outside.

The ultimate result would be when the person is leading her horse and has to suddenly stop, and the horse instantly stops right alongside the person. No yanking on the lead rope necessary.

Or if the horse and leader are stuck in a situation where they have to back up and it's all done with grace, poise and calmness.

It also teaches you to be consistent in your expectations and to develop a rapport with your horse.

Do this anytime, anywhere. It literally takes less than 5 minutes!

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

If you enjoyed these tips, you can find many more in Horse Listening – Book 3: Horses. Riding. Life. now available for purchase! 

Available as an eBook or paperback.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:Horse Listening Book 3

Good Day For A Little Horseplay: Snort, snort, snort, SNORT! My gelding couldn’t tell me in any clearer terms how much he was enjoying the moment.

Top 10 Ways to Reward Your HorseA happy horse is a willing partner, and many horses will give everything they have if they feel your acknowledgement and generosity of spirit.

What Responsible Horse Ownership Really Means: We need to keep in mind that horses are prey animals and long-time domesticated livestock. If we listen well enough, we discover that what we think of as giving might not be what the horses truly need.

5 Life Lessons From HorsesHow can horses help us grow and develop in our own lives?

42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your HorseHorses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.

20,000 Facebook Likes? Whaatt?? (And Celebration Giveaway)

20,000 Facebook Likes

Dear Reader,

It's hard to believe, but the Horse Listening Facebook page is less than 100 likes away from 20,000! 

I would never have thought that my little blog idea would  grow into something this fabulous! It's all because of you, dear reader, who comes back time and again to read the musings I post on the blog. Thank you for your likes, comments, suggestions - and for reading!

I'd love to celebrate with a random giveaway of 5 digital copies of Goal Setting For The Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. Since we're coming on to the new year, I thought you might find this workbook timely and appropriate! Goal Setting For The Equestrian

All you have to do is answer the following question in the comments below:

What is something you and your horse are good at?

  • The deadline is 12 am (midnight) on the day that the Facebook page reaches 20,000 likes! We are only 98 likes away at the time of writing this, so enter quickly, as it may happen within the next few days!
  • Only one entry per person.
  • The draw is completely random.
  • Be sure to enter using the comment section for this post. Facebook comments will not be eligible for the draw! Winners will be announced the next day right here on the blog. I will write a new blog post with the winner's comments and names. Make sure you come back to check for winners on the blog or the Facebook page if you aren't already subscribed to the email list.
  • Winners will be required to contact me directly by email in order to receive their eBook.

Good luck, and thanks for Horse Listening!

Kathy

Horse Listening Receives An Award!

Yeehawww! 

I was thrilled to find out that Horse Listening ranked #13 out of the top 100 equestrian blogs and websites "on the planet" (haha!) by Feedspot.com. Feedspot ranks websites based on 

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Taking a look at the list, I'm excited to be included right up there with the most active and influential horse sites on the Internet. There are also some sites that I didn't know about that look interesting as well. Click here to see the full list.

Thanks for reading, and for being part of our Horse Listening community! I feel very privileged to be recognized with this award, and for being able to provide space for education and discussion about our shared passion - the horse.

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution listSubscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

Horse Listening The Book

Other awards and recognitions:

Horse Listening Wins An Equestrian Award! I'm thrilled to let you know that Horse Listening is one of 13 award winners being given the awesome title of "Most Enriching Equestrian Blog of 2015" by the Animal Health Company.

OMG! HL Is A 2014 ESMA Finalist! Horse Listening has been picked as a finalist for the Blog Category of the 2014 Equestrian Social Media Awards!

HL on The Dressage Radio Show?? Yes! Follow the link to hear me speak about 20 Ways Horse Riding Becomes Life Itself.

Luvin’ the Reader LoveIn my little world, there is only one thing almost as good as listening to horses – and that is reader love!

HL is an ESMA Top Ten Finalist! We were voted in and judged to be worthy of the Top ten Blogs of 2013!

 

Keep This In Mind For No Stirrups November

Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

I logged into Facebook today just in time to be reminded that November is No Stirrup Month. It seems that people think that no stirrup work is essential to developing an effective, deep seat. They also credit no stirrup riding for improving the rider's balance and strength.

It is true that riding without stirrups helps develop muscles you never knew you had - do it a few times in a row to really feel those burning inner thighs and hips! If you like the no pain, no gain thing, by all means, go ahead and ride as much as you can without those stirrups.

However.

There are a few things that you need to keep in mind as you try to match your friend's no stirrup shenanigans. Because riding without stirrups might be counterproductive if you want to consider what can happen to your seat - and your horse.

Here are three pitfalls to riding without stirrups. Keep them in mind to make No Stirrup November really improve your riding.

The Old Knee Grip

The first thing that usually happens when you drop the stirrups is that your body goes into gripping mode - it might be completely reflexive. So while you think you're working on your seat, your knees are gripping tighter and tighter.

The problem with tight knees is that while you feel like you're keeping yourself in the saddle, you're actually pinching the horse near the shoulders. This will prevent him from being able to reach with the front legs, which will also block any energy coming from the hind end. 

Then, the tighter your knees, the tighter your back and the harder your seat. If you feel like you're having a more difficult time following the horse's back with your seat, check your knees first.

The Over-Bent Pelvis (Chair Seat, Anyone?)

The tight knees also lead to the chair seat. As you tighten the knees, they will likely begin to creep upward. Higher knees means closed hip angles. 

You're probably already familiar with this one (I have spent years trying to undo this muscle memory). The hip angle closes and as you assume the ever-famous "fetal position," you invariably end up being out of balance with the horse's movement.

Holding On To The Horse's Mouth For Balance

Once you're out of balance (whether falling forward or backward), chances are, you'll hold onto the reins to keep yourself more with the horse. This will cause unintentional pressure on the reins, causing all the negative results that a pulling rein can have on the horse

When you put them all together, it's no wonder that horses often go worse when the riders go without stirrups. We need a lot of extra strength and core balance needed to maintain the amount of dexterity needed to not interfere with the horse while keeping a strong but supple position.

But it can be done.



If you want to give it a try, here's what you can keep in mind.

  1. Keep your knees toned but also soft. You will need to grip with them in rhythm with the horse's movement (especially on the down stride in canter), but try to be very aware of how hard you're holding on. Soften when you can. You can do a lot of your balancing with the seat, through the inner thighs rather than your knees. Keep your upper body on top of your seat.
  2. Lengthen the legs. Aim for a soft bend in the knees, just as if you are using stirrups. If you notice your knees creeping up, push them down again at the next opportune moment.
  3. Build up your no stirrup work. Start with shorter intervals and stop before you get really tired. Or try going without stirrups in increments through your ride. You don't have to go all-or-nothing right from the beginning.
  4. Get lunged! There is no better way to go without stirrups!
  5. Use a bucking strap. Get one of those straps that attach to the front rings of an English saddle (or just hold on to the horn of a western saddle). Use one hand on the bucking strap (usually the outside hand) while the inside hand is used to keep your horse's flexion. You can use your arm strength to pull yourself deep into the saddle to teach your seat to move with the horse. Make the reins long enough for the horse to be comfortable while you hold on with your hand. You can always take your hand off to control the horse as needed. 
  6. Have a knowledgeable person watch you as you ride without stirrups so they can help you identify when your legs creep upward or when you're getting too tight in the lower back. 
  7. Aim to allow your horse the same level of comfort as when you ride with stirrups. If you find that you're causing the horse to hollow or brace or tense, put your feet back in the stirrups, re-establish good movement, then try again without. Gradually lengthen the time you ride without stirrups.

Like all things horse riding, going without stirrups well is an art form in itself. If you can truly ride with an independent seat, without holding on to the horse through the reins, and with soft, "draping" legs and knees, you are surely on your way toward developing a deep, effective seat. Give the no-stirrup work a good try, but build your way up with minimal discomfort to the horse. As always, listen carefully and let your horse be your guide.

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

Read more here: Horse Listening The Book

What Do Leg Aids Mean? All riders regularly use their legs to give messages to the horse, but most of the time, the legs mean go faster or change gait. Fortunately, there are many other uses for leg aids. 

12 Riding Quick Tips - #3: Work On Those Long, "Wrapping" LegsInstead of going into complicated fixes for each scenario, try the exercise in this article. If you can work on this every time you ride, you will likely work through any problems. 

Heel Healing: Here's An On-The-Horse Leg Stretching Exercise: The secret to dropped heels is in the release of your muscles, ligaments and tendons from your hips all the way down. Here's how.

6 Ways to Unleash the Power of Your Riding SeatAs you become more subtle in the aiding process, you will begin to discover just how powerful the seat can be in guiding the horse without disturbing and interfering in his movement.

Finding Your Comfortable Un-Comfort in RidingBeing uncomfortable is often a good place to be in riding.

 

 

7 Essential Aids For An Epic Canter Transition (Video)

Your canter departure doesn't have to be a rocket launch! 

These 7 steps help you set up your horse for a smooth, forward canter transition from trot.

Read all the details in the original post.

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Now is the time to re-evaluate your goals and path to riding success!

If you’d like a structured, but personal tool to set goals, take a look our Goal Setting for the Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. The pages are designed for you to set and keep track of your progress over the course of a year.

Included in the book:

  • design your overarching goals
  • long- and short-term planning,
  • debrief your special events such as clinics or shows
  • reflect on, plan and evaluate your goals
  • sample goals and pages

The Workbook is available for instant digital download so you can print the pages right off your computer. There is also the option of a paperback version if you’d rather have a professionally bound book to hold in your hands.

Click here for more information.

Goal Setting For The EquestrianRead more here:

12 Riding Quick Tips - #10: How To Canter Instead Of Just Trot Faster: Does your horse just go faster faster when you ask for the canter? Don't worry if it happens. Just know what to do, and work through the situation to improve the transition in the long term.

Wrong Canter Lead? 5 Ways To Fix ItDo you have trouble getting the "correct" lead when striking off into canter? It helps a lot if you know different ways to encourage the horse to strike off in the correct lead.

How To Improve YOUR Canter-Trot TransitionsWhat happens to you and your body when you head into a canter transition from a trot?

What Are The Leg Aids For Canter? A detailed breakdown of the aids for canter.

Use The "Canter-Trot" To Truly Engage The Hind EndEnergy from the hind end is the prerequisite for horse riding heaven and we all know that! We need to find out how to ask the horse to reach deeper underneath the body without throwing their weight to the forehand, and without speeding up the leg tempo.

 

Carl Hester Masterclass: Top 6 Tips

Up early enough to see the sun rise on clinic day!

1200 dressage enthusiasts.

Sold out, incredibly perfect venue on an incredibly perfect-weather weekend.

1 fellow by the name of Carl Hester, masterclass-ing through two well-run days of back-to-back, personally selected horse and rider combinations. He worked them. He taught them. He challenged them and he praised them. It was all so seamless and effortless that we sat mostly entranced, hour after hour, hardly noticing the passing of the day.

I was only able to make it to the Sunday session, but there was plenty to be gained from just that. It was like an educational Dressage party with the "who's who" of Canadian Dressage, some "big names" from other parts of the world, and our own friends and colleagues from near and far. For us horse-crazy, dressage-obsessed people, what could be better?

The notes.

The notes were better.

Because starting with the youngest horses (4 years old), to the 5- and 6-year olds, then to the Prix. St. George horse, the Intermediare and the Grand Prix horses - we were carefully guided to identify, and then resolve, the basics.

I came home with so many notes (hand)written in my little clinic book. Even though most of the horse/rider combinations were high level and working on the more complicated movements, so much of what Carl focused on was rooted in the basics. He'd pinpoint one basic modification of an advanced movement and everything about the horse would change - confidence, boldness, posture, balance... you name it.

The following is my interpretation of what he said, of course. I've narrowed it down to what I thought were the top 6 most relevant points, in backward order of importance. I hope some of it helps you too in your riding.

6. Invest in instruction.

First thing in the morning, he went on about the costs of horse ownership. We all know it takes a lot of money to buy, then keep a horse. But his point was that while we prepare our horse ownership budget, we should put as much attention to our learning budget. He said that to be a top rider, you should be riding with an instructor every day! (Made me wonder: what makes us "normal" riders think that we only need once a week - or less - lessons??!!)

I guess it's all about priorities in the budgeting.

5. Stretch at the beginning and end of your ride.

"As the beginning of the session should be, the end of the session should be: long neck, stretch over the back, swing."

Right at the beginning of the day, when the two four-year-old horses were in the ring, Carl explained that he literally stretches his horses for 10-15 minutes before he starts the lesson part of the ride. Start with a long rein but with contact until you're absolutely sure the horse is settled. Slow the legs for a slow swing speed. Start the top line muscles moving and working.

He said he tells his riders at home to go off and do circles and changes of direction. He wants to see the horses stretch in walk/trot and canter.

Then they work on transitions. Finally, they shorten the reins to begin working.

He was looking for swing. He was looking for cadence. He was all about the relaxation of the horse and rider.

4. Be "pretty" but also be effective.

While he did a lot of positional corrections on the riders, and insisted on good posture, good tone in the core, and positioning of the hands and legs, Carl insisted that position on its own isn't good enough. We must be effective with our aids, and get the response we are aiming for.

3. Do it again until you get it right.

Carl didn't actually talk about this, but he demonstrated it with almost every rider. He was very particular and when he set his expectation, he wanted to see the horse and rider achieve it before moving on.



So for example, one horse would lift his head and neck through the trot/canter transition. This indicated that the horse was starting the transition from the front end. He asked the rider to do a shoulder-fore before the transition (position the shoulders just slightly to the inside) to improve the engagement of the hind end. Then he had the rider repeat the transition several times until the horse glided smoothly into the canter.

"It's all about pushing to the limit but not pushing over the limit.

2. Be forward-giving.

I loved every time he was able to get the riders to be (more) forward giving. Don't get me wrong. They were all excellent riders with soft, quiet contact. But still.

He would ask the riders to push the horses to contact (which also highlighted the importance of the horses responding adequately to the leg aids), then release (just a feeling) and invite the horse to go forward.

"Push him to contact, release and then push to contact again."

In every instance, the horse would visibly transform: rounder, lighter, more expressive. Every rider commented on how they could feel the difference and it was obvious for us auditors even from the ground. He insisted that the more advanced horses must be in self-carriage; he wanted the horse "on his own legs" so that he was balanced himself.

1. Balance

"Good riders balance horses so the horse can do anything."

This one really resonated with me. I think this is the key take-home idea for me. If there is anything that I must do, it is to constantly improve my skills so that I can achieve better balance for the horse in everything. How to achieve better balance?

Throughout the day, I took notes. There were different suggestions for different horses, but I found a few repeated themes: slow the legs down; shoulder-in or even shoulder-fore; shoulder-in on circles; "half-transitions" (almost do the transition but don't); full transitions (trot/canter/trot/canter); short steps to long steps in the same gait.

So much to think about! I think everyone came out of the clinic feeling inspired, motivated and ready to ride our own horses with all these thoughts fresh in our minds.

*Photos were not allowed, but there are many photos on the official Caledon Equestrian Park Facebook Page. Click on the blue Facebook logo below to see the photos.

Horse Listening

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Now is the time to re-evaluate your goals and path to riding success!

If you’d like a structured, but personal tool to set goals, take a look our Goal Setting for the Equestrian: A Personal WorkbookThe pages are designed for you to set and keep track of your progress over the course of a year.

Included in the book:

  • design your overarching goals
  • long- and short-term planning,
  • debrief your special events such as clinics or shows
  • reflect on, plan and evaluate your goals
  • sample goals and pages

The Workbook is available for instant digital download so you can print the pages right off your computer. There is also the option of a paperback version if you’d rather have a professionally bound book to hold in your hands.

Click here for more information.

Goal Setting For The Equestrian

Read more here:

Try This To Feel "Forward": If you’ve never felt “forward” before, how on earth are you supposed to learn it? You need a friend to help you with this one.

18 Reasons To Establish "Forward" Energy: It isn't always easy to establish and maintain a forward, energetic but contained movement. Whether in walk, trot or canter, both you and your horse have to ride in a forward - but not running - manner. 

Demystifying "Contact" In Horseback RidingSometimes it feels like the word "contact" has other-wordly connotations. Is it related to celestial retrogrades, or long-told mythical verbal traditions, or is it a yogic position unreachable by the average equine enthusiast?

An Awesome Over-The-Back Suppling Warm-Up At The Walk: I've been using this exercise as a warm-up for both myself and my horse lately and I'm seeing great results! It's an active but relaxing way for both of us to loosen up. 

How To “Flow” from the Trot to the Walk: Although we rely on our hands too much and initiate all movements from the horse's mouth, there are many alternate aids we can go to, especially for a downward transition. Here are three steps to develop a balanced trot-walk transition with minimal rein pressure.