Free Videos on Straightness and Collection from USEF Network

USEF Network has free videos with Dr. Deb Bennett from Equine Studies Institute.

PDF on Lessons From Woody: On Teaching Your Hose To Carry Himself Straight by Deb Bennett, Ph.D


Lessons from Woody, Part I Physical Straightening by Deb Bennett, Ph.D

Lessons from Woody, Part II Deep Straightening by Deb Bennett, Ph.D

True Collection: Loin Coiling and Raising the Base of the Neck by Deb Bennett, Ph.D

Riding Arena Footing and Management

Date: November 26, 2013 | 7 PM ET

Speaker: Dr. Ann Swinker | Penn State University

Cost: FREE

This webcast will explain the physical principles of arena footing and selection of arena footing materials. It will also introduce participants to the management of footing materials in an existing arena. Each riding surface will have advantages and shortcomings, and footing will change over time. This webcast will describe how to manage footing material, the principles of surface maintenance, and indications of when footing material needs to be amended or replaced. You will also learn why equestrian facilities are so concerned about dust control; and why prolonged dust exposure is a serious environmental and health hazard to horse or human.

Register here:

To create an account, go the “Create Account” link on the top, right hand side of the screen.

I wanna be a Trainer when I grow up

I have a friend who is 16 this year. We’ll call her R for this post. R and I have never really talked about what she wants to do when she grows up, but her mom let it slip that she wants to have a career in horses. Not as a vet, but as a trainer. R’s mom seemed pretty distressed by her daughters career ambitions. Not because her daughter couldn’t make it as a trainer, but because her mom thinks all horse related activities are dangerous. Which they are… so I can’t really talk her out of that fear.

I wanted to talk to R about her career choice. I mean, I remember being 16 and wanting nothing more than to spend every day, all day, riding and training horses.  As a paltry second choice, I might’ve opt to be a sulky horse jockey if I really couldn’t ride anymore. But… the point being, I know that dream.  I think a lot of us had that dream to some extent. So I was thinking about what I would say to a young adult who is still too young to be independent from his/her parents, yet old enough to be nearing that decision point.

If I were able to talk to me when I was that age… what would I tell me?

I think I would start with telling younger me to shadow a full time professional trainer for at least a full week, all day, every day, for 7 days. From the moment they start work til the minute they stop working. Professional trainers don’t really just ride horses all day. They spend a huge chunk of time being people shrinks. If you aren’t thrilled by the thought of spending all day trying to offset whatever phobia’s or personal issues people have, then you might want to rethink “trainer” as a career. I mean, you could probably still train horses, but if the owners aren’t involved and trained then you will never be successful. To be successful, the owner has to learn how to reproduce the training.

I can’t stress this enough… you’ll never make most people happy most the time. Owners will hate you because they continue to let cutesy-wootesy nip them until he takes off their ear. Even though cutesy-wootesy would never dream of doing that to you in a million years because he knows you’d rip his lips off. Doesn’t matter, the owner will reteach cutesy-wootesy to nip and bite people two days after he returns from being successfully retrained by you, and then owner will blame YOU for doing a bad job (now switch out biting with left canter lead, or flying changes, etc). Or, the owner you’ve put hundreds of hours into coaching and training will have the ride of her life, but won’t win the class, and you will instantly be sucked into the world of water works and blame game. Where you’re left walking a fine line between nipping their self-induced hysteria in the bud and bolstering their ego’s enough to stop the crying, all while successfully not offending them to the point where they pull their horse out of training with you.

Second, shadow that trainer and learn every single thing you can from them. Volunteer as free help every day after school, be the first one volunteering to go get a horse, to clean a saddle, to pick a stall, whatever. Just be there, so when an opportunity to learn does come up, you’re the first one to be a part of it. Pick their brains, ask questions. Screw sports, screw band, screw everything else. You want to be a career equestrian, then you have to get up to a level where you can start your career as soon as you graduate from college. You have less than 6 years to become a trainer. If you’ve never even broken out a horse at this point, then you had better find an opportunity to learn how to do it correctly now.  If you’ve never long-lined, you better learn now. If you’ve never walked a kid through the mechanics of how to post on a horse for the first time, well, you’d better figure it out pronto.

Third, go to college. Join the equestrian team or whatever, but get your degree. Any degree, in pretty much anything except history, english, or art. Doesn’t matter. All that matters is the piece of paper afterward. It shows you’ve got grit and can navigate b.s. successfully. People who pay money like that in a person, plus it gives you an option B in case you realize you don’t like people that much.

The last thing I’d tell my younger me is, if this is truly what you want, then get your butt in gear! You can’t make it by just hanging a shingle on your door and proclaiming yourself a trainer. You actually have to accomplish something that will entice people to want to train with you. Train with the best trainer you can afford and commit yourself to challenging your skills and knowledge every single day. Watch every video you can find, read every book you can get your hands on, and audit every clinic you can get to. If an opportunity to train with a top name trainer comes along, then jump on it. If you don’t have the money to do it, start hitting up your extended family, friends, strangers, or businesses, and non-profits for donations. Find scholarships and grants that can help with the finances. Do whatever it takes to make it happen, even when you are positive it can’t happen. Never give up, never let someone tell you no, and never ever doubt your ability to make it happen.

So anyway, R, if you ever read this… if you really want to be a trainer, then start making it happen. But I’d caution you in your career choice. Even the great trainers, who love horses, get sucked into a time vacuum where they can’t spend the time they want with the horses they love. Now me, as a non-trainer and regular working stiff, I don’t have to make something happen on anyone else’s time line with a horse. If I just want to spend time grazing Ava, or hanging out in the pasture with her, I can. If I decide I want to try reining, or mounted police, or polo… I can.  If I want to goof off and ride bareback through a field, and then spend 2 hours brushing my horse… I can.  I own all of my time with my horse completely.

You know what… I just realized what I would really say to younger me is: You’ll be content as long as you have at least one horse you love in your life and enough time to spend a couple hours a day with her. The rest will work itself out.

Wait, What? Who makes up this stuff?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I was informed that November is No Stirrups month. 

I had no idea.

So I propose that you log your hours of riding sans stirrups, and at the end of the month post them here. Whoever has the most hours wins a big Kudos. 😉

I already have .5 hrs.

It’s gonna take you forever to catch up! Muh-hahahaha

Follow up to the Disastrous Trailering Weekend

A very wonderful person offered to help me load Ava after my failed attempts last weekend. I agreed, and immediately had second thoughts. I was still stuck with the issue that I need her to load when I’m the only one there.

I was still so sore from the first attempt that I debated calling and canceling the appointment we’d made.  I wasn’t even sure I could hold a lead rope at that point, let alone a rope with a horse jerking me around.

Anyway, the appointed time came and there I stood with Ava, a trailer, GLOVES ON this time, and a brand new rope halter. I was quickly disavowed of the effectiveness of my “some famous person endorsed” rope halter that didn’t even have knots in the right places (why do tack stores sell those?), and loaned a real one (along with a 15 foot long lead).  I was still trepidatious. Mostly just tired. I was really, really tired of failing at this.

The trailering lesson began with some basic obedience training. My friend coached me through better ways to get Ava to respect me, and what the game plan was for teaching loading. I was pretty sure this was the root cause of my issues, but in my defense my horse is far less dis-obedient then she was 2 years ago.  The point is, we spent a few minutes just working on obedience and respect for the handler. Then I walked her up to the trailer and let her sniff it thoroughly. Ava stepped her front feet in, sniffed and bumped everything she could reach and then looked at me like she was saying “Yeah, Lady? Forget it! This is as far as I’m going.”

Actually, saying she gave me a look is way to mild. She was definitely not going in the trailer.

So we lunged her outside of the trailer with changes of direction, and when Ava started showing some signs of relaxation and submission we asked her to walk on the trailer.

Wasn’t happening.

Lunged some more and asked Ava to load again.


Lunged, and lunged, and lunged, and lunged….

Okay. At this point I’m really starting to freak. My horse is breathing really hard, sweating profusely, and I’m wondering at what point she’ll fall over from a heart attack. Yet, Ava showed no signs of understanding that she’d get to stop if she got in the trailer.

We kept at it…. an hour went by and we were no further in the trailer than when we started. I wanted to give up. It was never going to work….

I lunged Ava, asked her to walk in, she’d refuse. I’d ask her to lunge some more. Repeat a gazillion times.

And suddenly, Ava walked in.  I petted her, and made a big fuss about what a wonderful horse she was as she caught her breath in the trailer. After a minute, Ava decided this being in the trailer still wasn’t for her and backed out. I tried asking her on again, but she dug her feet in and refused to move. So off she went on the lunge again…

I asked her to load again and three feet out she balked and refused to move.

Lunged some more.

Seriously, I was really, really worried at this point. I’ve never seen this horse sweat this much before.

I kept stopping Ava to ask her to load, and every single time she would step her front feet in and refuse to go any further. So we kept lunging…

Finally, I asked Ava to load again, and she jumped into the trailer. I swear if she’d had hands she would’ve shoved me out of the way to get on.  We let her catch her breath for several minutes, and then asked her to step just her back feet out. I was convinced that once those feet were out that she wouldn’t put them back in again. She stepped the first one down and immediately jerked it back into the trailer.  Apparently, she was finally getting that the trailer was a good place to be.

We spent some time asking Ava to back out of the trailer and then step back inside, and every time Ava walked all four feet back onto the trailer. I was so relieved. For one, because I wouldn’t have to ask Ava to lunge anymore (I felt like the meanest person ever keeping her going), and two because my horse finally was walking all four feet onto the trailer every time I asked. No fuss, no drama, no trying to kick everyone…  she just calmly walked on and started munching hay.

We’re going to try loading Ava again this weekend, so hopefully the lesson sticks. If this really works for the long haul then it means I can start hauling Ava over to go trail riding! Think of all the possibilities! We can go do fun stuff, with fun people, and on a whim if I want to! No more needing to budget in 2-4 hours just to load a horse. And I can go anywhere… I’ve been stuck only going places where experienced horse people can help me re-load Ava so we can go home. I’ll be able to go to any location regardless of who is there, or what kind of horse knowledge they have.

This will be so freaking awesome!!

The Friendly Advice Anguish

I meant to post this Monday... but I'll post it today instead.

We’ve all had that moment where your horse does something naughty, or stupid, and the sudden out pouring of well-intentioned advice comes flooding in. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting ideas on better ways to solve problems with horses, but if I hear another “I watched this one video where….” I’m probably going to fake a fainting spell.

I’m loath to admit it this at the moment, but my mare totally has my number. She will not load in the trailer at ALL now.  I can get the front half in nearly every time, but those back feet REFUSE to step in. Which meant I missed my last chance at a lesson with Rosalind Kinstler before she leaves for the winter, Plus, I still had to pay for the missed lesson (thankfully she cut us a break on the price). So my horse just cost me over a hundred dollars, wasted nearly 5 hours of my day, and I’m so sore, beat up, and stiff that I can barely move today.

So far I’ve had several people tell me to try the John Lyons horse training videos, a couple of mentions of some mysterious video of someone using a whip tapping technique, several mentions of using an intricate contraption of lunge lines to pull her in, and a lot of pitying stares like I’m just too incompetent to own a horse. Those are the worst.

And yet, here I am. Horse outside trailer, me inside.

As soon as I lose whatever experienced helper I rooked into helping me, then I’m back to begging my obstinate horse to load.

I have had offers of help to load Ava after my disastrous attempts this weekend, but all I can think of is “Great, she’ll load as long as I have a second experienced person to help”. How does that help me move her myself?  So, I’m going to scour the web this weekend to see if I can find some glimmer of hope on ways I can train Ava to load without a lot of help from others.

And yes, I’ve watched the John Lyons video on loading….

Yes, I’ve tried the whip tapping method.

Yes, I suck….

Oh, and the absolute worst part is I scratched my glasses all up while fighting with my mare.  Now I have to pay to have them fixed.

It’s been a freaking horrible weekend.