It’s not you. It’s me – Self awareness during training

“He’s just resisting everything!” Maddie called to me in frustration as she butchered a shoulder-in at the trot on her gelding, Indy. (Somewhere in the world a French cavalry officer was rolling in his grave.) I said “Bring it down to the walk and let’s see what you are doing.” Maddie deftly performed a gorgeous shoulder-in at the walk with Indy rocking back on his haunches and softly wrapping around her leg. “He feels 17 hands tall she said with a smile.”

“What are you doing to ride this movement so well? Close your eyes. Where are you sitting? What are your legsmaddie-and-indy and hands doing? How does he feel?” I asked, “As soon as you have the feeling in your body, and you are ready, trot on.” I watched Maddie with her eyes closed and could feel the energy passing back and forth between her and Indy. Then they moved into a beautiful trot shoulder-in and a huge grin spread across Maddie’s face. Indy was smiling too. Finally his lady had it!

Indy was never really resisting anything. He was just confused like most of the horses in the world that people push, pull, tap, yank, and kick into doing things poorly. Any time you are in a big mess or are not getting the results you would like on the ground or in the saddle try to peel it back a little. Slow it down. Ask yourself what’s happening. REAllY ask. Feel it. Let your knowledge and your intuition guide you to the next step.

In the attached video Stacy is learning how to send her horse out on a circle at liberty. (This movement is the same as asking your horse to move out on the lunge line). At first she is struggling slightly with Thunder. He’s very connected to her and is turning in on her and following her, but she wants him to move away.


However, inadvertently she was stepping back and inviting him to come in to her, all while asking him with her voice and hands to step out. In the lesson she learns to pay attention to her feet and the message that she is sending with her entire body. She has to ask herself where are her feet? What steps is she taking? Where is Thunder in relation to her? Where would she like him to be?

She learns to feel the impact of her energy and her body on Thunder and his response is crystal clear. You will see that as soon as she gets it, he does exactly what she wants.

Is there a time when you wanted one thing, but were asking for another with your body? Do you have any tips for increasing self awareness in your training? Please share your thoughts below.



Comments 1

  1. It’s the most magical thing to get to the point of seeing and feeling at this level. It then becomes an entirely new relationship with horses. I grew up under the mechanical mentality. That bond some people had with their horses eluded me. Coming back to riding as an adult has been a whole different story. Early on, I discovered that the old way doesn’t work, and that there’s a different approach. The first time I read that horses aren’t resistant, that they want to please, but are confused by what we’re asking, a huge light bulb went off. That was the key for me to open the door to the thinking inside me that was brewing: My horse is not a being to be mastered, or to be told what to do with this leg or that rein. It became instead a conversation between us. Really, an exploration, together. Your videos and explanations make this process clear. And everyone who tries it do know it takes time. Be quiet and patient with yourself and your horse. Just keep at it and listen to your horse. The bit about taking a step back when asking for forward is a huge tip off. Become sensitive to those little things. Horses are all about details. A lead mare can get the whole herd to turn on a dime, when we humans can’t even see her cue. Thanks Heather for all you’re doing for our horses! And us.

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