Category: Horseback Riding

Thoughts and comments about Horseback Riding in Las Vegas

Is A Food Reward A Bribe?

Is A Food Reward A Bribe?

When working in the positive reinforcement quadrant of operant conditioning, treats or food, are often provided as a reward. Many see this as a bribe, but is it really? Is a reward a bribe? I think not. I see a reward as a reward IF the intention IS to reward and reinforce a desired behavior. Perhaps in the human world, once could have a motivation of a bribe to influence someone to do something with ulterior motives, I would say that is possible. But in the animal or horse world, I don’t see it that way. Many horse training professionals with long lists of credentials and years of training talk about the food reward as a payment or thank you, or something that helps the animal feel good, or positive about the experience. My observation and experience with Food Rewards, when delivered with proper timing and dosing is a huge motivator for my horses. In the past, I strictly used release of pressure or negative reinforcement, removing a stimulus, as a reward, and I was able to train my horses to do incredible things. But to be honest, there was a part of me that felt like I just had obedient horses, and they were, and that’s great, but there was something inside of me that seemed to be missing. I didn’t see that wonderful joy I now see in my horses who WANT to OFFER COOL STUFF, like liberty half pass in collection! Now they ask me, is this what you want? Is this it? Then instead of waiting for me to ask them for something, like a trot transition, they offer it from the previous training session. I see food rewards a positive motivators and my horses seem much happier emotionally than in the past. Try it out, see what you find! Google some trainers and see what they say about HOW to deliver treats as the timing and dosing is highly important! Enjoy your time with your horse! Motivate them with something they love!!!

The Veterinarian Dentist

The Veterinarian Dentist

Our equine dentist is a licensed veterinarian who only does teeth and loves it. Yesterday while assisting him with a few of my horses we started discussing sedation. He gave me some tips about how it works after I asked if my horse was sweating from the sedative or from the sympathetic nervous system being activated. He explained how the chemicals lie on some of the cells and don’t activate them ….. ok, honestly I have no idea what he said but something like that, but the bottom line was that it was the sedation. We kept discussing training and sedation. Then he said he wanted to get better with horses and someday be able to do his job without sedation much like a dentist he saw in a video. He said the dentist would take 45 minutes to 1 hour for each horse but it was what he called ‘Real Horsemanship.’ He talked about how the man would approach the horse, just stand there engage in a conversation and soon the tools would be working and the dentistry would be done. (Funny thing is I had a dentist like this in the past). Now, some argue it’s impossible to really get to the back of the horse’s mouth without a speculum and I wonder about that too but the point isn’t that, it’s horsemanship – the new way of being, or perhaps the old way of being.

The Freedom To Choose

The Freedom To Choose

This new ‘Choice-Based’ training is just that: it’s new and it’s choice-based! Too simple, I get it. What I mean is that it’s pretty new for horsemanship, that a horse can actually have, or be allowed a choice to participate or not in its training. Who knew? In the past, I was always focused on the training, the asking, the obedience, and then the reward – which was release, reward, relax. But now I’ve discovered there’s ACTUALLY MORE!!! Could it be true that there’s more than just having a well-trained obedient horse? I tell you today, there IS more!

The freedom to choose comes to both us as a trainer and to to the horse. We are free to choose which style of training we want to follow. If we choose to follow choice-based training, then the horse has the freedom to choose too! Can it be possible that the horse will choose to be trained, to be engaged, to participate in our exercises, our sometimes-very-difficult-and-strenuous-exercies?

The answer is YES!!! Since I have found the choice-based training style, I’ve noticed a much more engaged and willing herd! (All four of my equines, soon to be extended to my brave 2-man papillion canine pack living in the house!) It’s quite amazing! In the past I was pretty much focused on the horse doing what I asked, or ‘obedience training’ and after experiencing the wonder, the ease, and the joy of choice-based training, I will never return.

Make your decision and follow it wholeheartedly!!!

The Decision

The Decision

There comes a time to make a decision. Am I going to do this or am I going to do that? Or am I going to do both in Incongruency? Am I going to straddle the fence or am I going to leap over it and rush into the new field and experience all the new things that are in THAT field, not THIS one?
As a horse trainer I’ve come across many methods, ideologies and programs. I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, which ones resonate with me and which ones don’t. Am I ready to ditch the ones that don’t and run away or am I going to cling a little, hold a little, not really let go? Well, I have to make a decision.

What I’ve learned is to Trust the Process, and I’ve always said The Process Will Lead Us to the Goal, but I don’t focus on the goal per say, I trust the process. So when something new comes along, I trust it’s OK! I follow it, I go along, and then if it’s proven inaccurate by my horses, then I go back! I don’t strangely just adapt everything I see or hear, but I review it and see if it aligns and resonates, then we go.

There’s a decision but there’s also flexibility. If I make a decision for myself and my horses, I must always remain flexible for those who aren’t ready to jump the fence and run into the new field. Sometimes safety and comfort are better! Sometimes peace if needed over a little adventure. I can make a decision and allow others the flexibility to stay where they are or come along, and even that IS a decision. It’s a decision to stay, it’s a decision to go. Whatever the path we take, it’s all going to be OK.

The New Horse Training Science

The New Horse Training Science

I’ve been pretty effective in getting results with my horses over the years. I felt I had done a good job with them, using what I knew and always asking myself how I could do better. Recently, some new information has come into my arena and I’m quite mesmerized, happy, overwhelmed, and excited!
In my lessons with students, I’ve noticed the ones who have used positive reinforcement training in the past or present often got much faster results that I had. Ouch. But I’m an open person so I went to figure this out.
What I found was that there’s not only one way that a horse learns, as I had been taught in the past, but there’s many ways a horse learns and we need to always be finding the Easiest way for our horse to learn. The reason for this is just simple fairness. It’s more fair to train in a way that works with the horse.
I have used pressure and release for so long I was able to get great results, or so I thought. Then I started adding positive reinforcement and got greater even faster results! Who knew? My horses are happier, willing and want to do more with me than ever before.
OK, there’s more! Then I came across this training around the Central Nervous System Down Regulation in Horses an Humans. Blows my mind off the charts! I started implementing things I have learned and my horses are learning and progressing even faster! What I have done inadvertently over the years is blow through a horse’s ‘threshold,’ that is how much pressure they are able to take, I just forced them through that because I had the pressure and release techniques to do so. When I started changing the way I do things, when I improved myself, my horses got better. I now look to see if my horse has reached a ‘threshold’ and then I wait, that’s all, just give the horse time, space and attunement if needed and voila! my horse is back with me, calm, stable, able to handle the situation. I’m very very excited about this and just tipping my toe in the water so to speak. There’s tons of science and information online to research and learn about this. I encourage you to do so. Google Sarah Schlote, Dr Richard Peters, and even Warwick Schiller does some interviews with these individuals who are teaching this so find him and listen to his podcasts. That’s what I’m doing and I’m loving it!

What is Straightness Training?

What is Straightness Training?

The horse is not naturally built to carry weight. Therefore, if we want to ride, we need to prepare the horse to carry us properly. This is done through gymnastic exercises for the horse, from the ground and from the saddle.  I follow the Straightness Training system, which was designed to follow the Old Grand Master’s style of training the horse to become strong, supple, and last a lifetime.  Check out straightness training to learn more and visit the company that provides this training system.

As of January 2022, I am signed up in the Straightness Training Basic Instructor Program where I will be studying and learning how to teach this system to riders.   For the last 6 years, I have been teaching my horses the system of Straightness Training and learning the basics of LFS, Lateral Bend, Forward Down and Stepping Under.  I graduated Grade 1 with my Oldenberg mare in 2019 and plan to graduate another horse in Grade 1 early this spring of 2022.  As I’ve been working in Grade 2 with my mare, I’ve learned and am improving the qualities of BSSTR, Balance, Suppleness, Shape, Tempo and Rhythm.  It’s amazing how easy it is to just ‘try it’ and get out there!  But learning and then growing the work into Quality Movements is something different altogether.  I believe the Instructor Program will help me even more in this area.

Following is a general description of Straightness Training.  Be sure to check out the main website: for a lot of great articles and information.

Natural Asymmetry

Every horse is naturally asymmetrical. Just like every human, every horse is left- or right handed, both in the front legs and the hind legs. Also, the horse is bent to the left or right in its body and it carries more weight on the front legs than on the hind legs. This causes an uneven distribution of the weight over the four legs. When the rider does not recognize and correct this imbalance, this can lead to problems. The goal of straightness training is to develop the horse symmetrically in body and limbs.

Straightness training consists of a series of gymnastic exercises for the horse in which it learns to stretch, to tense and to relax its muscles in balance. This makes the horse fit, supple, strong and muscular so it can carry the rider more easily.

Straightness training during dressage makes the horse symmetrical in body and limbs.  It also develops the horse’s balance and divides the weight equally over all four legs. By straightening the horse, it is enabled to carry the rider properly. Also, well thought through gymnastic exercises keep the horse fit as a riding horse until old age.

For which horse is it suitable?

All horses and ponies, untrained, experienced or even with a problematic background, can be schooled following the steps of straightness training.

The goal of the gymnastic education within straightness training is for the rider to reach a perfect harmony with his or her horse. Well thought-through gymnastic exercises make the horse able to perform as a riding horse until a very high age. Because of the logically structured exercises, horse and rider are trained according to his possibilities and talents, both physically and mentally, towards a level that is comfortable for both.

What are the benefits of straightness training for you and your horse?

  • You will learn to train within a logical system of well thought-through gymnastic exercises and you will develop yourself to become the personal fitness trainer of your horse.
  • You will be able to develop your horse from a horse with (riding) problems towards a soft, cooperative riding horse.
  • You will get more insight in how riding problems are created, and learn to fix and prevent these problems. Because of the clear structured system, you will always have a good basic work to fall back on and to help you find the solutions to whatever riding problems you might encounter.
  • With straightness training basics as physiotherapy, you can reduce and prevent back problems and strain injuries in your horse.
  • And from that you can take it another step forward: You can develop your horse’s talents to their maximum.
  • Your horse will develop physically: it will become more supple and easier to maneuver, it will become stronger and will reach more bending in its hindquarter/haunches, and will be easier and lighter to collect.
  • Your horse will develop mentally and emotionally: your horse will become stronger, more self-assured and will scare less easily. Your horse will become more loyal and affectionate towards you, and will show less resistance and stress.
  • Your horse will develop spiritually: he will be the best horse he can be, he will feels his inner calm strength, his pride and unique, authentic self.
  • And of course also the rider will develop physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to become the best rider and trainer s/he can be!

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What is Classical Dressage?

What is Classical Dressage?

Classical dressage evolved from ancient movements and training for the battlefield.  Classical riding is the art of riding in harmony with, rather than against, the horse.

A painting of the Spanish Riding School in 1783

Correct classical riding only occurs when the rider has a good seat and a correct and well-balanced body position, moves with the horse’s motion, and applies and times the aids correctly.

The origins of classical dressage and collection lie in the natural ability of the horse and its movements in the wild. In fact, most modern definitions of dressage state that the goal is to have the horse perform under saddle with the degree of athleticism and grace that it naturally shows when free.

Horses naturally use collection when playing, fighting, competing and courting with each other. When trying to impress other horses, they make themselves look bigger, just as other animals do. They achieve this by lifting the forehand, raising the neck and making it bigger by flexing the poll, while at the same time transforming their gaits to emphasize more upwards movement. When fighting, the horse will collect because in collection he can produce lightning speed reactions for kicking, rearing, spinning, striking with the front feet, bucking and jumping.

This natural ability to collect is visible in every horse of any breed, and probably inspired early trainers to reproduce that kind of behavior in more controlled circumstances. This origin also points out why, according to most Classical dressage trainers, every healthy horse, regardless of its breed, can perform classical dressage movements, including the Haute Ecole jumps, or Airs above the ground, even though it may perform them a little differently from the ideal performance due to the build of its body.

The ultimate goal of dressage training is to develop a horse to its ability as an athlete: maximum performance with a minimum of effort. The training scale (as set for in the German riding instruction) is to physically develop the horse in a consistent manner with longevity in mind. Dressage is fitness training and needs to be treated as such, with thought, compassion and patience.

Content adapted from Wikipedia

What is Natural Horsemanship?

What is Natural Horsemanship?

Natural Horsemanship

A human approaches a semi-wild horse in a non-threatening stance

Natural Horsemanship is a collective term for horse training techniques which share principles of developing a rapport with horses, using methods derived from observation of the natural behavior of free horses and rejecting abusive training methods.

Natural horsemanship practitioners often describe their approach as being a radical departure from “traditional” techniques, which are often portrayed as being based in the use of unnecessary force. Users and practitioners relate benefits both in relation to horse behavior, and also to the idea of a true partnership. High-profile practitioners of natural horsemanship such as Pat Parelli and John Lyons provide their methods through educational books, television appearances, live shows and other media.

The idea of working in sympathy with a horse in order to obtain cooperation is not new, with documented instances as far back as the two part treatise On Horsemanship by Xenophon (c. 430 – 354 BCE), which amongst other points, emphasized operant conditioning and emphasized reassurance over punishment.[1] Later classical dressage practitioners such as Antoine de Pluvinel (1555–1620 CE) and François Robichon de La Guérinière (1688–1751) also emphasized gentle techniques.  However, gentle training methods have always had to compete with harsher methods, which often appear to obtain faster, but less predictable results. In particular, the cowboy tradition of the American west, where the economics of needing to “break” large numbers of feral horses in a short period of time led to the development of a number of harsh training methods that the natural horsemanship movement specifically has set out to replace.

The modern natural horsemanship movement, though not originally described as such, developed primarily in the United States Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain states, where the “buckaroo” or vaquero-style cowboy tradition was the strongest. Brothers Tom and Bill Dorrance were early modern practitioners, who had background in the buckaroo tradition. They had a particularly strong influence on Ray Hunt, who in turn became a significant influence upon Buck Brannaman and many others such as Pat Parelli, who was also influenced by Dorrance and Hunt but also came from the rodeo world.

In Europe a number of variations are practiced that developed independently of the American model, influenced by Spanish or Hungarian horsemanship traditions as well as the teachings of Classical dressage. Some include work rooted in the use of human body language to communicate effectively to the horse.

Adapted from Wikipedia

What is Western Dressage?

What is Western Dressage?

​Come experience what all the fuss is about!   Western Dressage is classical dressage training for the western horse.  All breeds are welcome, all riders, all levels, all levels.  Learn to apply classical training principles as a foundation for any discipline.

Western Dressage is Taking Off !

More information coming soon.