Be a Better Rider – Start Now!

Are you interested in getting ahead with your riding, but you feel like you are riding around in circles (literally)? Would you like to have efficient training sessions as well as have a set of proven training tools and techniques to ‘ramp up’ your development?

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Get the strategies to transform yourself and your horse. Receive your 3 free tools to get you and your horse where you want to be:

  1. Free video outlining specific equitation comments and corrections.
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  3. Free report ”Horse Show Guide – Top 10 Horse Show Tips”.

All this plus a monthly inbox magazine crammed with proven training techniques to continue to develop your unlimited potential.

Thank you!

Thank  you, Thank you for commenting Thank you for taking the time to be a participant rather than a silent reader. Your input is important and we welcome you into the discussion. If you have something you would like to see here… Then please let us know. This blog is successful due to people like you. Thank you. Join the Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Network and get tips on healthy living directly to your inbox. Now is the perfect opportunity to sign in and sign up. Besides getting horse training and showing secrets sent directly to your inbox you can recieve a free video analysis of your riding and horse from a senior judge for free (regular $30 so don’t delay!)Put your email in the form and you will get your free analysis.

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Top 3 Equitation Tips – From a Senior Judge

As a Senior Judge I watch a lot of equitation rounds. You will find these top 3 equitation tips will get you noticed in the Equitation class.


Summary is this:

  1. Keep your leg locked on with the heel pressed down.
  2. Eyes up looking to the next fence.
  3. Keep your back flat.

These sound like simple things, and they are, but do these on a consistent basis and make them a part of your regular riding routine is important.

How do you improve your heels? Looking up? and keeping your back flat? I’d love to know.

Stay tuned for more equitation tips and exercises on how to improve these three things.


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Making a Bond With Your Horse

“When you’re riding, only the race in which you’re riding is important.”– Bill Shoemaker

What does this quote mean to you?

Does it mean:

  • When you are riding, whether it is in the competition arena or training at home, you should be paying attention to your horse.
  • Don’t get ahead of yourself?
  • Focus on the job at hand?

I think it means all of these. When you have the ability and knowledge to be on your horse,

A young Lipizzan at the Spanish Riding School ...

Look for the moments when the horse is honest and performing the tasks we ask. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

give your horse your full attention. Do not belittle your horse by not paying attention to what is going on underneath you. Look for those moments when they, the horse, are honest and trying to perform the tasks you are asking of them.

Do not look for the ‘have nots’. Those moments when the horse is misunderstanding and acting in a misunderstood fashion. Look for the way, we as trainers, can guide our horses to understand what is asked of them and to perform willingly.

The quote can be taken literally, “you are only as good as your last win”. But as horse riders and trainers we know… horses are creatures. As living creatures we should treat them with respect and this way you can form a bond which will grow and be a foundation to build your training and horsemanship.

Building a Bond With Your Horse

Horse clicker training italy 1

Horse clicker training italy 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When horse training, building a bond with your horse is one of the simplest yet most difficult things to do. The horse is programmed to build a bond. The difficulty lies within us! We have a bad day, stressed at work or caught in traffic, we expect to get on the horse and have it all go away.

Do you ever think the horse is having a ‘bad day’? Maybe they need something from us, a pat, a treat or a kind word to let them know THEY belong.

Focusing on your horse, whether in the stable, while riding or on the trail is one way you can start right now to create a partnership with your horse. It is more than saddles, bridles, round pens and ‘carrot sticks’.

Start by Saying ‘Hello’

Do you march into your horse’s stall and just grab his halter? Take a step back for a moment and think how it would feel if someone you knew came up to you and just grabbed at you. HOw would you feel?

Take some time, say 3 minutes, to just plane scratch your horse. You don’t need to give treats. You don’t need to have grain. You don’t need to give anything but your undivided attention! spend 3 minutes of hands on ‘rubbing’ and tell me what happens to your relationship with your horse.

How do you plan to spend more quality time with your horse.

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Horse Training – Have a STAR plan for your horse training

If you are a rider then you you have dealt with having to train a horse. It may be something simple such as walking correctly while being lead or it may be upper level dressage. Either way horse training comes into the picture.

We often come into resistance and what we would call disobedience while horse training. If you actually do a bit of searching you may find your horse is not really disobedient but rather is trying to tell you something or maybe even trained to do – what ever it is which you think is the disobedience. Your horse could be scared, spooked, or may not understand what it is you are asking. To make sure that he’s not just spooked, alarmed, perturbed or confused take a moment to asses the situation.

Take the STAR approach.

  1. Situation – What is the situation you are in. For example my horse was – refusing to go by the in gate. This is the Who/What/Where/When of the situation. Focus on the ‘problem’ you had. Who was riding, was it in training, at a show, on the trail etc.
  2. Task –  Identify the objective. This is key. The fundamental issue you need to overcome. Your horse may be stopping at the ingate (as in the example above), but what is the fundamental issue? Is the horse herd bound, is the horse not listening or reacting to the riders cues? Is the rider not asking correctly?
  3. Action - This is where you describe the action taken to correct the situation.
  4. Results -  What was the result of the action taken?

If you spend some thoughtful time on the situation and the action the results will usually speak for themselves.

Balance the Correction 

English: Horse Training Wattie Adams, exercisi...

English: Horse Training Wattie Adams, exercising one of his horses. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes, the horse may be trying to find out who really is IN CHARGE. Remember horses are herd animals and will look for their leader. Some horses will often try to be the ‘herd leader’. Make your corrections in balance with the horse.


I had a horse which would run through the doorway and almost crush me. Correcting her by stopping through the door would just cause more anxiety and crushing.

Using the STAR approach -

  • Situation – Leading her through a doorway she scooted and crushed me.

    A Cossack training a horse

    A Cossack training a horse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Task – Is to get her to go calmly through a doorway without crushing the person leading her.
  • Action – I backed her through the doorway rather than leading her through the doorway.
  • Result – She now goes through the doorway calmly (in both directions!).

If you are having similar situations. Take a breather and take some time to get a STAR approach on them.

What situations would you use this simple step by step procedure in your regular riding program to help you and your horse?

Here are some other posts you may find helpful;


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Making Mistakes is OK. “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.

John Wooden

This is how you should feel about horse training. I understand you would like to have everything perfect, everything correct and everything go according to plan. Well, sometimes things don’t happen that way. Especially, by the way, when you are riding and training horses.

Are you familiar with the phrase – no pain, no gain? This is a similar saying. If you are

Navy shadbelly with white gloves, tall boots, ...

Navy shadbelly with white gloves, tall boots, and spurs: note the yellow points and tails. The horse is performing dressage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

getting stronger you feel it by the stiffness in your muscles. If you are always training the same pattern, the same circle and accepting the same gait from your horse you will never progress.

How does this relate to horse riding and training?

How did you learn to walk? Everyone did it. You get up, you fall. You get up and wobble, you fall. You get up, you take a wobbly first step, you fall. You get the picture? There is a sequence. A progression which usually ends with a mistake or fail.

When I am asked to teach at a stable or give a clinic I do my best to find the starting point of the people who invite me and then work forward from there. Sometimes it is demanding more from the horse and sometimes it is demanding more discipline from the rider.

Making a Mistake Isn’t Necessarily Wrong

For example, if you are asking your horse to lengthen stride at the trot and your horse

English: Image from book Horsemanship for Wome...

English: Image from book Horsemanship for Women by Theodore Hoe Mead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

steps into a canter. Do you get angry because s/he broke? I say no. The horse obviously understood going forward was required but misunderstood or didn’t know lengthening was an option. 

This is a mistake, stepping into a canter rather than lengthening the stride, so this, to me, is the starting point for assessment. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did my horse understand what was being asked?
  2. Does my horse know how to lengthen stride?
  3. Am I giving the horse the correct aids?
  4. What do I need to do to give my horse the skills to perform correctly?

Then you can move on from here.

When has making a mistake changed or uplifted your riding?

I think the point is to also learn from your mistakes and improve upon them. I remember teaching my horse collected canter. His canter was excellent and I could canter all day. I, however, wasn’t satisfied with this. I felt there was a better canter hidden in there.

So i decided I would collect the canter. The first time, can you guess what happened? yup… he totally fell into the most fast paced, on the forehand trot and almost pulled my arms out of their sockets. That was a mistake. Rather than lifting himself up and collecting the trot, he fell into a discombobulated trot.

I didn’t give up.

I didn’t say – he can’t do it (never say can’t).

What I did do was regroup and retry with a better understanding of what my horse required. Did he understand? Was I asking him correctly? Can he physically do the exercise? And did he try for a moment and then break into the trot.

After a few attempts he did get 1/2 canter strides. Then I included the exercise in my regular program, after a month the collected canter became part of the ‘tools’ of my riding program.

Moral of the story… if you are not afraid to make a mistake… you won’t move forward with your riding/training. If you are not pushing your boundaries then you are standing still, not progressing, not doing.

I am positive a doer makes mistakes.

I second that and people who progress and succeed also make mistakes and are not afraid to make mistakes.

Canadian paralympic rider, Karen Brain, school...

Canadian paralympic rider, Karen Brain, schooling her horse VDL Odette (Ahorn x Finette – Zuidhorn). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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