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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Getting Things Done

Finnhorse Teppo jumping

We Had a Long Winter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After, what seemed to be, a very long winter we went out for a ride last evening. It was a warmish afternoon and the road was soft and ice free.

I thought ‘finally, some decent weather’. What I realized then was I was letting something get in the way of my riding. And I realized this can apply to anyone. If you really want to get somewhere with your riding, or your life for that matter, you can not let things, no matter how big or small, get in your way.

 Overcoming Obstacles

If we really want to get somewhere, we will find the means to get there. Making excuses will not help us get to our goals.

For example, of you would like to show but do not own a trailer to get you and your horse to a horse show. If you really wanted to show you would find a means to get to the site. You

English: A horse trailer, back door open. Fran...

If You Would Really Like to Do Something You Will Find a Way. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



  •  Invest in a truck and trailer
  • Buddy up with a friend
  • Hire a truck and trailer
  • Or other ways.

If we REALLY would like to do something we will find a way to do it! If we think we may like to do it or try it, then we will find excuses not to do it if things get a little tough. I thought I wanted to ride, but the frigid temperatures put a damper on things. So I guess I really didn’t want to ride.

Now the warm weather is here and I will find fewer excuses.

If you find yourself making excuses, take a step back and evaluate why. Are you:

  • Just Making excuses because you don’t really want to?
  • Afraid?
  • Happy with your current situation?
  • Not willing to put the work in to progress?

Once you decide what it is you can take action to rectify the situation.
What excuses do you come up with to not do the things you like to do?

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First Impressions in the Show Ring are Important

hunter judge expert, how to judge hunters, hunter judge

First Impressions are Important

As a Judge I have had the opportunity to sit on the sidelines of many shows. From development/training shows to national and international events. And even though you may have the best horse, trained the hardest and spent the most effort, your first impressions are important.

Just think of how you feel when you are sitting at a restaurant and the server places a plate of food in front of you. Your first impressions of that food is important. The plating, the color, the way the plate is turned correctly toward you. It all has a bearing on how you perceive that food. I remember my son commenting on a soup as looking, “like swamp water”. This was not a good start to his meal. (BTW it was delectible spinach chowder!)

It is kinda the same when judging at horse shows. The judge makes up their mind within the first few seconds of the round. From the ingate to the first fence could make or break your round.

What the judge is looking for
Take a look at these links to help you understand what the judge is looking for:

Do you make judgments on your first impressions? I invite you to email me to tell me how you overcame a ‘bad first impression’.


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