Continuing the Trek for Better Horsemanship

IMG_2034I returned home Saturday from the ARHA World Show in Bowling Green, KY. I did not accomplish much in terms of ribbons, buckles or World Titles. However, I did bring home additional horsemanship knowledge that will make me a better horseman and ultimately, a better competitor. When you ride with the best, you get better if you pay attention. I am grateful for the advice from those horsemen I truly respect at the World show. Most was unsolicited, showing their character, as well, as their knowledge. To those, Thank You! Started today on working for next year.

My next clinic will be at Diamond TR on July 25. We are continuing our Ground to Saddle series.We start at 9:00 a.m. and conclude around 4:00 p.m. For details go to for registration or see entire curriculum for the Ground to Saddle Series. We are progressing into horsemanship applications for recreational trail riding. If you want a better trail horse; have thoughts of competing; want to have more confidence in your horse; or need to lay a better training foundation for your horse- these clinics can fit.

Ranch Horse versatility classes in breed sanctioned shows, ranch horse versatility associations and ranch rodeos have made the ranch horse popular again. Although associations have promoted versatility as a virtue, for many years specialization for competition has been the dominant force in horse competitions. That is changing with the ranch horse versatility classes and shows growing in popularity. Horses that can perform as western pleasure, trail, reining, roping, and cow horse are in demand. The word “ranch” draws people to participate in these events because of the romance of the Old West. Ranch Horse versatility events incorporates aspects of several show classes. As result, few horses and riders are equally experienced at all of them. I see this as an opportunity to improve our training and horsemanship skills for those interested in these events.
The ranch versatility horse must be safe to handle and ride. They must be quiet minded. The competitions demand the horse to shift gears mentally as well as physically. They must tolerate a certain amount of rider error as the rider becomes accustomed to new events. The ranch versatility horse must have a solid foundation in his training.
One of the secrets to having a well trained responsive horse is to make sure your horse is light and supple. Suppleness is when you ask a horse to give his head to one side or the other and he willingly gives to your hand by following the bit. There is no resistance. It also means that you can bend and position any part of the horse’s body to perform any desired maneuver. It’s sometimes called form to function. In fact, lightness and suppleness are the key ingredients to top performance. Without them your horse’s performance will never be better than mediocre. Suppleness is what allows us to position a horse’s body. Without proper suppleness and form, there is no way a horse can correctly perform any of the maneuvers expected of a ranch horse. If you want your horse to perform good stops, turns, lead changes etc. then having him supple is a must. A horse must also be light. He needs to willingly let us position his body quickly and without a struggle. Also, a horse will never perform as freely or as athletically as he is capable until he is light.


Scheduling Clinic Dates for Remainder of 2015

Advertisement Template 2If you would like for me to conduct a clinic at your arena, I am scheduling now for the remainder of 2015. First available dates will be mid-August at this time for Saturday dates. More options if a Tuesday or Thursday (day or evening) Clinic would work for you. Contact me with your ideas and needs- we will work something out.

Thoughts to Reflect:

1. Reward the Try, not the Result- keep the horse trying and results will come.

2. Horses need to respect your hands, not fear the bit.

3. No learning takes place without movement of the feet.

4. Set your horse up for Success.

5. If it ain’t working, try something else.

Getting out of your Comfort Zone


The only way to get a horse to extremely high levels of competence and performance is to continually increase the expectation of your horse. Ultimately we want the horse to be able to complete all maneuvers on a relatively loose rein with relatively little pressure. In order to accomplish that, we have to increase our expectation.
The other concept associated with increasing our expectation of the horse is making the horse responsible. To make the horse responsible we give the horse the opportunity to make mistakes and then correct him. When we ask the horse to be responsible to hold a certain frame or to complete maneuvers with very little assistance then the horse may be confused at first. Ultimately, we have to keep increasing our expectations in order to see our horse advance.This will be the theme for the next of the Ground to Saddle Series at Diamond TR Ranch on June 27, 2015. We start at 9:00 a.m. and conclude around 4:00 p.m. For details go to for registration or see entire curriculum for the Ground to Saddle Series.


Objectives of the clinic are:

a. Horse Control- soft feel, movement of hip and shoulder, stop on command
b. Relaxation- horse waits on rider cues with confidence and security
c. Safety with Objects- riding through an obstacle course at walk, trot and lope
d. Directional Control – walk and trot circles on loose rein
e. Correcting Training Problems (Finding the diseases and not treating the symptoms)

Getting Your Horse Involved in the Training Process


IMG_6723I am still  conducting a clinic at Diamond TR this Saturday, May 2. However, the subject matter is changed. We will focus on Evaluating Your Horses Training Level.

If we consider horsemanship as a partnership between human and horse, then both parties have responsibility. If we have established the human as the leader, then what is the horse’s responsibility? The horse’s role is then to follow the leader. The horse also has a vested interest because he is the one that is expending the energy! The horse needs to be part of the training process. They are capable of many things athletically, but you must include them in the mental part of things as well. The horse must be rewarded for any success. This reward is comfort and safety. This principle results in the horse willing to keep trying and ultimately, searching for that particular movement (or lack of movement, in the case of stop) of feet and legs that results in release of pressure (stimuli). Here is how we include the horse in the training process:
1. Listen to him.

2. Build a basis for communication. Ray Hunt always said, “Reward the smallest change and the slightest try.”

3. Always be consistent in your cues.

4. Expect and accept failure.

5. Build a foundation for success

This theme will be the basis for my next Horsemanship Clinic at Diamond TR Ranch on May 2- starting at 9:00 a.m. To register you may contact the Ranch at  Contact me as well with your questions. This clinic is for riders that want to advance the confidence in themselves and take their horses to a higher training level – regardless of riding discipline.


Equitation for Trail Riding

Vacation 2011- Pecos 077 On May 30, we will continue our series of Western Horsemanship Fundamentals at Diamond TR Ranch (Highway 10 E out of Perryville). This clinic will focus on Equitation for Trail Riding. We will emphasize the following points:

a. Horse Control
b. Transitions – walk, trot, and canter
c. Trotting Diagonals
d. Cantering

e. Sensory Training
f. Surprises on the Trail
g. Safety of Riders & Horses
h.  Trailer Safety and Prep

The Clinic will start at 9:00 a.m. To register you may contact the Ranch at  Contact me as well with your questions. This clinic is for riders that want to advance the confidence in themselves and take their trail  horses to a higher training level.

Planting New Horsemanship Skills- Spring Clean Old Habits

IMG_6723 My next clinic will be April 25 at Faith, Hope and Love Farms in Little Rock, AR.

To change our habits, we must first change our thinking. Resistance in our horses is not in the body, it is in the mind. What we feel through the body is simply the physical expression of how they are feeling inside. It is not physical resistance, but confusion, defensiveness, anticipation, anxiety, fear, or often even anger. To get a horse to relax, we must have movement of his feet. When he is in motion, anxiety goes down, muscles relax, his body relaxes, and then his mind engages to thinking mode, not flight mode. Consistency means that YOU will ask today the same way for the same things as you asked yesterday and will ask tomorrow. When a horse feels that the human has failed in providing that leadership, reassurance, guidance and protection, the horse’s natural tendency is toward self- preservation and its survival mechanism takes over. And this is where problems begin to develop. Any inconsistency will confuse the horse and result in inconsistent response and performance. Even if a horse was doing a particular technique consistently wrong, the horse will eventually figure it out and give appropriate responses if the release of pressures is coming at the appropriate times. Details:
Saturday, April 25, 2015 9am—3pm
$125 per rider/horse
$20 to audit
Lunch will be provided to riders
Faith, Hope, & Love Farms—Little Rock, Ar
(off Pratt Rd) **covered arena

For more information or to reserve your spot, call 501-590-9442 or email at
Find us on facebook: Faith Hope Love Farms


Evaluating the Your Horse’s Training Level

IMG_3933The most successful people that I have known, regardless of chosen profession, are those that never accepts “status quo.” They never get complacent with current success, but are always searching for a better way. I think that horsemanship is the same way. Nothing stays the same, it is constantly changing. If no effort is made to improve, usually the result is a decrease in performance. I have observed this in myself! Every time I get to a point in my horsemanship; that I am not driving myself to learn more or start trying to get by with less effort – my horsemanship deteriorates. The ultimate loser is not me, but the horse I am working with at the time. I become a hindrance to his potential.

This theme will be the basis for my next Horsemanship Clinic at Diamond TR Ranch on March 28- starting at 9:00 a.m. To register you may contact the Ranch at  Contact me as well with your questions. This clinic is for riders that want to advance the confidence in themselves and take their horses to a higher training level – regardless of riding discipline.

I would like to share with you a few fundamental philosophies to help you think about your horsemanship from a broad perspective:

1. Horses are individuals, what works with one may not work on the next; we have to be flexible in our approach. Many people want a ten step approach to horse training and after number 10, instant success. It doesn’t work that way. If you get to an impasse, back up to something you and your horse is comfortable with. Then try to progress again.

2. We only teach horses to do the things it already knows how to do. We only teach them to do it when we want them to. My five basic maneuvers of horsemanship are 1) forward motion, 2) turn right, 3) turn left, 4) stop, and 5) back up. These are things every horse already can do. However, can they do them on your command, without resistance, at various speeds?

3. There is a point where the horse has learned all he can learn in that session, find a place where both you and the horse have been successful, and stop.

4. Horses do not carry a watch or an appointment book, therefore do not have the sense of time we do. Do not put your training or riding time on a schedule. Bad habits can form without you being aware. One example is barn sour horses.

5. When you get on a horse, they read your mind, your emotion, and your body. They know whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable, how much you have ridden and who is going to be in charge of the ride that day.
6. Create a respectful relationship between you and the horse rather than having a relationship where you always dominate and the horse always submits. If the horse respects you as being higher in the pecking order, he will try if your message is communicated clearly.

7. The horse is always right. If the horse has had the proper foundation to execute a maneuver or accept something new and refuses the cue, it means he does not understand. Horses do not hide their emotions. They are constantly giving us signals with their body – relaxed and willing, tense and unsure, mad and irritated. Do not blame the horse for your failure to communicate.

8. If you want the horse to improve, you must challenge him past his comfort zone.

9. If you want to improve your horsemanship, you must challenge yourself past your comfort zone.

10. Create a library of knowledge on horse training. To be successful, one must have a variety of knowledge tools. (See Rule 1) The more knowledge of the horse, understanding the use of aids, and techniques to communicate with the horse you have available, the greater the chance to find a method that an individual horse will understand.

Finding Rhythm and Using Rhythm to Control the Horse

Vacation 2011- Pecos 093The weather has played havoc with my riding and the 2015 Clinic Schedule. However, we are getting back on track, finally. My next Clinic, Finding Rhythm and Using Rhythm to Control the Horse, will be on March 14 at Diamond TR Ranch. We are continuing our series on Western Horsemanship Fundamentals. Our goal here is to build well-trained horses and confident riders to enhance your riding experiences. Clinic will start at 9:00 a.m. and end between 3 and 4:00 p.m. To register contact Diamond TR Ranch at

Many experienced riders have well developed riding skills, but they do not feel and react to the subtle indications a horse gives to his subsequent actions. Riders who do not feel the horse’s errors are unable to react correctly in a timely manner to correct or teach the horse.

Exercises to improve a student’s ability to feel the movements and responses of the horse have been developed. They include the typical exercises for developing balance and independence of the hands and legs; feeling the horse’s foot falls and weight shifts; feeling the horse’s rhythm; and learning to respond to the minute responses of the horse. Developing balance and independent hands and legs is the most important to me.

Riding by feel is first developed by learning the foot fall patterns of the horse. At a walk the horse moves each leg independently and has four separate beats. The trot is a two-beat gait with diagonal legs moving in unison. The lope is a three-beat gait with the off hind leg and the leading foreleg hitting the ground independently and diagonal off foreleg and leading hind leg hitting the ground at the same time. All of these foot falls can be felt by being attentive to the weight shifts of the horse.

Horsemen should observe the movements of the horse with their legs and hips as well as getting in time with their hands. As the horse progresses to a trot, the weight shift is from side to side in relation to the front legs. You should feel the shift of weight from side to side through your hips and legs. At a lope the weight shifts from front to rear and from the outside hind to the inside fore, therefore, the rolling motion goes from back to front and slightly toward the inside of the circle.

As horsemen focus on the weight shifts and leg movements of the horse, they will have a better feeling for the horse’s legs, stride and weight shifts that indicate the horse’s actions and intentions.

We will accomplish:

1. Stable Safety
2. Finding rhythm
a. Feeling the leg movement
b. Move hands in rhythm with the horse
c. Walk, trot and lope

3. Using rhythm to control the horse
a. Slowing the body down
b. Speeding up
c. Bumping in rhythm – hand, leg

Cow Horse Fundamentals- A Clinic to Build the Foundation for Ranch Versatility and Stock Horses


The next Cow Horse Clinic at Circle C Arena in Pleasant Plains will be on  March 7, starting at 9:00. We are continuing our Building Your Cow Horse Fundamentals series. We will focus on trail class and Ranch Riding. As part of the Trail, we will have a roping clinic- since roping a dummy is a requirement in ranch trail. As always, we will work on getting your horse soft, responsive and engaged. We will also work on using your body correctly to set up maneuvers. For more information contact me – or Alice Singleton- Cost is $75.00 if you preregister; $100 the day of.  Lunch will be provided.  Circle C Arena is an enclosed arena, therefore, comfortable riding protected from wind, rain and though not toasty- warmer than outside.

These clinics will assist you in getting your horse softer and quieter, but also build rider confidence. Your horse and horsemanship will improve, whether you ever compete or not. Plus, we have Fun!

The safest and most enjoyable horse is a broke one!

Get Your Horse Involved in the Training Process

IMG_3933 I will be conducting a clinic at Diamond TR (west of Little Rock) on Saturday, February 14 (yep Valentines Day, so bring your Sweetheart- human or equine) entitled Getting Your Horse involved in the Training Process. Too many times I see horses with issues with cues because the signals are confusing or not held long enough for the horse to figure out what the purpose is. Clinic will start at 9:00 a.m. and end between 3 and 4:00 p.m. To register contact Diamond TR Ranch at

You can’t teach a colt or an older horse to be a reining horse in 30 days. In the preliminary stage of laying out a solid foundation, I want to teach him to learn. When I ask him to do a maneuver, I want him to look for a way to accomplish it instead of resisting me. The only way to do this is to be consistent with your cues and don’t try to force the issue. In other words, be patient and don’t try to physically overpower the horse. If you get into a tugging contest, the horse will win because he’s bigger and stronger. He will learn to resist. Only apply enough pressure to get a correct response. If you start out with the most amount of pressure applied to get a response, where do you go from there? The horse must have a release. The key to horse training is pressure and release. Apply the pressure and release it as soon as you get a desired response. This keeps horses from becoming intimidated and resistant, because they believe if they do the right thing the pressure will be released. I believe that if you take a little more time with a horse he will learn faster.

Here is how we include the horse in the training process:
1. Listen to him. The horse will tell you what he’s thinking. He can communicate confusion, fear, understanding, excitement, or level of effort through his body language.
2. Build a basis for communication. Ray Hunt always said, “Reward the smallest change and the slightest try.”
3. Always be consistent in your cues. Start from the ground and then progress to the saddle with lateral and vertical flexion, control of the feet, and control the movement of the body. This will build a supple, willing horse, and give consistency to communication.
4. Expect and accept failure. Each cue is not going to be understood and executed. Therefore, failure becomes a “teachable moment” in which we can re-evaluate our communication. It is also an opportunity to back up and make sure the fundamental training steps have been learned.
5. Build a foundation for success. Everything we ask a horse to do, he already knows how to do. We are just asking him to do them exactly when we want him to do it. All a horse can do is move forward, backward, sideways, left, right and stop. Everything we ask is a combination of these maneuvers or change in speed. Start slow and build momentum. Allow the horse to buy into our system.