Category Archives: Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac

My horse is tossing her head when I ask her to slow down or stop. What can I do?

“Hi Stacy! I have been following your blog for almost a year now and I love the knowlegde you share. I have a coming on 4 Year old filly who recently has gone to tossing her head lately when being ask to slow down or stop. Sometimes I almost feel hard on her mouth when she goes to jerking the reins when tossing her head as I am already applying some pressure. What could I do to stop this behavior? I wouldn’t like her to turn this into a habit everything I ask her to slow down or stop.”-Heather J.

As I haven’t seen you or your horse I am going to tell you some of the more common reason I have seen for this behavior. You can then determine if any, or a combination of any, fit your situation.

The first thing is the disclaimer on physical causes specifically teeth. Horse under the age of five are shedding baby teeth and all kinds of crazy things can be going on in their mouths. I have written several blogs about this topics so I won’t go into great detail here.

  • Inconsistant hands: Developing great hands as a rider involves the ability to move smooth and fluid. My mom told me to pretend I had ‘a little birdie’ perched on my hand and I didn’t want it to fly away. If that image doesn’t work then try imaging your hands carrying water. When the weather isn’t freezing cold try actually carrying water, or try my Egg & Spoon game anytime.  When your mare pulls you can also imagine your arms are rubber bands, they will give some (like a band stretching) but they smoothy return to their original position…which should also be where your mare finds a reward.
  • Straight and stiff: Horses are less likely to pull and toss their heads when they are bending. When I am training, as you saw in the Jac series, I teach a strong foundation of bending and counter bending. This is important because straightness and softness is more difficult to train. I didn’t say impossible, it is the end goal, but it is more difficult. Go back and watch the progression of Jac as he learns to counter bend and answer the question: Does my mare counter bend as well as Jac did at the end? Practice, practice, practice.
  • Stopping power: The stop shouldn’t be coming from only your hands at this point. If it is then you are likely using your hands for too much and your legs for too little. As a horse begins to understand the riders ‘body cues’ (such as leg cues and the rider shifting weight, etc) they shouldn’t need to be stopped 100% by the reins. It is possible to teach a horse to back up from leg cues. As you do this your horse will not require as much of a rein cue. Check out the video below to see how important the leg cues are in the stop.

The methods I teach on my Basic Body Control DVD as well as in pieces of the Jac series will show you methods for holding your reins during the bending and counter bending that are incredibly helpful for retraining your hands while still training your horse. Work your downward transitions on the four leaf clover pattern (shown in both places listed above) because you are more likely to have success there.

Also remember that training, and riding, a horse is like learning to dance together. It takes time and practice to become a strong team. Consistency in the number of days per week that you ride as well as the methods will also play a part in determining the outcome.

Video example of the importance of legs and stopping:

Video that shows Stacy and Jac still working on counter bending:


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What material would you use when building your own round pen for horses?

“I’m looking at building a round pen for starting and working my horses. I have seen ones with full wooden sides, some with boards, with shade cloth for sides and even some with electric tape. Which would you recommend? I’m not keen on the tape type incase the horse goes through it.”-Laura R.M.‎

As you have noticed there are quite a few options when it comes to building a round pen. Taking a look at how you are going to use the round pen as well as the climate might help you make your decision.horses and round pen safety

While I was training in Ohio I had a round pen made from the metal panels. You can see this round pen in the Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac series. The reason I chose to use this type of round pen was because I knew I was going to need to use it in my indoor riding arena when the weather was bad outside. I dreamed of having a covered, enclosed round pen but it was never in the budget. The advantage of having the portable panels was that I could also move the round pen to my outdoor arena when the weather was good.

The biggest advantage for me was that I could take the round pen down when I needed to drag the footing. I have had the opportunity to use a few enclosed round pens and the one issue that I have seen was when people don’t plan for how they are going to maintain the footing inside a small pen. Without proper maintenance the footing can get extremely packed and it can also become very sloped, like a bowl, which makes it more likely for a horse to trip. Be sure that the pen has a gate large enough for a tractor or drag or whatever equipment you plan on maintaining the footing with.

I have also used round pens with solid walls half way up and all the way up. One advantage of the solid walled round pen was that the horses were very focused as they couldn’t look out. One disadvantage was that no air could get in, during the summer months it was like an airless desert. The pens that had solid wood bottoms and then bars above allowed for air movement.

The round pen in this photo was at one of the horse motels we stopped at along our trip. It was in New Mexico and they wanted to maximize airflow so they used the mesh wire but they also wanted to minimize the sand blowing out so they added a row of industrial belting, similar to a rubber mat, as a lower barrier. After using it for awhile they decided they want to add another layer of the belt and they think it will still allow enough air flow. Consider how you want to use your round pen, what type of footing you will use and how you will maintain it, and what materials are available and will hold up well in your climate.

Have you built your own round pen? Where do you live? What materials did you use? Are you happy with the results?


Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Members Question, Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Video


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In the round pen my horse just runs…how do I get her to pay attention to my cues?

“Hi Stacy! I have a question about engaging a young horse when working in the round pen. I notice that even in the first video with Jac, you were able to keep his attention and he responded nicely to you. I have a 20 month old filly that I just started with. When in the round pen she is so consumed with running in a circle that she does not respond to any cues. How do I get her to start paying attention to my cues?”-Christy

I love using the round pen as a training tool and there are situations where it is an essential first step but for many horses it is a better second step.  When I competed in the Road to the Horse and was working with a three year old that had never been haltered, the round pen was essential. It gave me the ability to control a horse that was big, strong and not trained at all.

In my years of ‘normal’ horse training at home I have used the round pen in a slightly different way, which is what you see in the Jac video below. This video is Episode 13 and if you look in the description you will see that I had worked Jac over the period of several weeks a total of almost six hours doing groundwork training on a long line. The advantage of having the young, halter-broke, horse online for several sessions is that I can ‘help’ them find the correct answer. In your case you are describing a horse that is running circles around you in the round pen. If you were to put her on a long line, even if you were still in the pen, you could give her the cue and then help her find the correct answer by applying pressure to the line. As she is already accustom to giving to pressure because she is halter broke she is likely to find the answer quickly. This is the method that you see me use in the Jac series if you watch all thirteen episodes up to this point.

One of the big reasons that I like ‘helping’ the horses by using the line is because I don’t have to work the horse as physically hard. Your horse is still young and although you could use only the round pen to get through this, you will likely find yourself working her physically harder than if you ‘helped’ her find the answers on-line first. If you go back and watch Jac in Episode 3 when he was dragging me around this behavior often translates into a horse that is willing to bang into the round pen, something I like to avoid. This is another reason why I like using the line to help them find the answer.

You can also do a blend of working her in the round pen with the line on. I once had a young lady come to me with her horse that kept jumping out of her round pen at home. I had her do two weeks of on-line ground training before going back to the round pen. When the horse seemed confident in the cues on-line she went back to the round pen and the mare didn’t try jumping. Although it was extreme, the mare had been doing what she thought she needed to do to survive. The on-line training helped her to see other options and stopped her from the dangerous attempts to jump the pen.

At some point I do like to test the horses in a round pen but especially with the young ones I enjoy the process of first showing them the answers on-line.



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Stacy Visits Jac at his New Home

I had the idea of doing a colt starting video series for years but the timing never worked. It was a huge time commitment requiring set up and tear down of camera equipment, synchronizing several peoples schedules and filming in all kinds of weather conditions…and that was just on the filming side. For every hour spent in the barn preparing, filming and tearing down there were 4-5 hours spent in editing and producing the videos. I am happy to say that in the end it was all worth it, although there were times in the moment when I wanted to quit.

The reason I wanted to do it was easy to define: to show people the normal pace and steps of my training. It was important to me for people to see the ‘whole picture’ because I knew that it would help people understand the stage they were at with their horse. I truly believe that educating people so they understand horses is the best way to improve the lives of both horses and humans.

I am also thankful to Weaver Leather for coming along with me on this journey. They went out on a limb with this crazy-never-been-done-before idea of mine despite the fact that I couldn’t answer many of their questions. How long will it last? What will you cover? How many episodes will there be? As a true horse person the only answer I could give was ‘the horse will tell us’….and still they came on board with their sponsorship which made the project possible.

I especially want to thank all of you who faithfully watched and interacted with both myself and Weaver Leather on social media. Your encouragement and questions kept the project alive and inspired me by letting me know that I had reached my goal.

  • “Thank You Stacy and thank you Weaver Leather for sponsoring these videos!!!”-Mike Hasel
  • “Thank you for doing this.”-Christina P
  • “Thank you for sponsoring the Stacy Westfall Jac series .. it was great!!!!!!!”-Jackie DeJoe
  • “So kind of you. Thanks for sharing your hard earned secrets. Awesome !”-willingwalers
  • “Thank you for the Stacy & Jac videos. Great gal and great info. Please, keep ’em coming. Also good products from Weaver’s Leather!!!”-Sheryl Turner
  • “You should be proud of Jac…but also very proud of yourself! Surely a heart and soul experience for the both of you!”-Ellen Schoner Mader
  • “Stacy Westfall, you’re awesome I’m always so inspired when I’m watching this series! THANK YOU SO MUCH Weaver Leather!!!!”-Jessie Smart
  • “This is so insanely interesting, you are such an inspiration !”-Lara Kramer
  • “THANK YOU WEAVER!!!”-Shasta Meekins
  • “Awesome thanks…Bunch of good info on starting thanks!!!!”-Tim Bartlow
  • “Thank you Weaver, Stacy and Jac for these awesome informative videos, I have enjoyed watching every minute and will watch them all again!”-Debbie Walsh
  • “I have really enjoyed your series and relate so much to the story you told. Will be a fan of yours forever!”-Jenny Doely Auer
  • “I have sent thanks before for the video series that you sponsored for Stacy Westfall and Jac. Again, I want to thank you. I love your equipment. It lasts.”-Liz Patterson Sahlstrom
  •  “This is a really cool idea, I’m enjoying watching Jac’s journey! Thanks for sharing :)”-Horsesjustknow
  • “A big thank-you for the Stacy and Jac videos. I really enjoyed them and am learning so much from them!!”-Julie Murphy
  • “You do know how to bring a tear to the eye. GOD has given you a special gift and you use it well. GOD BLESS YOU.”-Carol Seeley
  • “A BIG thank you for sponsoring the Stacy Westfall series….love it and it’s helped me soooo much!”-Peggy Newman Holmes

Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Life, Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video


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Being on the road is hard for the horse, how do you keep your horse sane? What are some of your tips while traveling?

“Being on the road is hard for the horse and rider, how do you keep your horse sane?  What are some of your tips while traveling?  And how do you get over the speed bumps along the way?” -Melissa F.

While it is true that being on the road can be hard on the horse and handler there are a number of things that can be done to make the experience much more enjoyable. Three things to keep in mind are: make it safe, make it comfortable and make it normal.

Just like anything else in life, travel is something that can be practiced and learned. The more you travel the more experience you have and the more well equipped you are on your next trip. Our kids were born into a family that traveled and it was normal to drive 16 hours to visit family or 18 hours to go to a horse show. Because our kids traveled so much they didn’t start asking ‘are we there yet’ until four or five hours into the trip and they consider three hours or less to be a ‘short’ trip…it is all in perspective.

Our horses have also been conditioned to think this way. The lessons that I teach during groundwork have physical and emotional elements and much of this carries over to the trailer. It is normal for me to haul an extra horse or two along to the vets or when picking up or dropping off another horse with no intention of ‘doing’ anything with that horse. They are just along for the ride. This way they can experience loading, unloading, balancing, standing, eating and drinking on the trailer. The horses also learn to relax because nothing is expected of them, there is no big show or high pressure events they are attending. We do enough of this that our horses seem to view a trailer ride much like a dog views a ride to the bank. I have even loaded horses in the trailer and driven them to the grocery store…just for more hauling experience!

We always make sure that the truck and trailer are safe and comfortable. We adjust the windows and vents for fresh air, although not too much if it is cold. We put bedding down to prevent slipping making sure that it is not dusty and we give them hay. We also drop the windows when we stop to allow them to learn to stick their heads out which makes watering easier.

We are also very aware that our driving habits need to be different when we haul. Sudden or quick turns throw horses off balance quicker than accelerating does and braking is an entire subject of its own.

Many people worry if their truck will have enough power to pull their trailer while not considering if it will properly STOP the trailer. Having brakes that are adjusted properly is a subject that major horse magazines bring up yearly because it makes a huge difference in both safety and comfort. Brakes that grab and jerk when you touch the pedal make it more work for the horse to simply maintain his balance.

Research says that a horse riding in a trailer uses the same energy to balance as a horse walking. This means if you haul for four hours it is physically similar to them walking for four hours. I use this as a gauge to decide what a horse can handle; a fit five year old will be different than an unfit twenty year old.

In general I think that people aim for keeping horses safe and comfortable but if there is an area they fall short in it is making hauling ‘normal.’ This might be for the lack of a trailer or the lack of time…but either way you need to be honest that this is what the issue is and not expect the horse to haul like one that is frequently hauled. In these cases you can also make some changes like doing extra work the week before hauling or hauling a calm buddy with your horse. Do things that will help keep them safe, comfortable and as normal as possible and always make the best decision for the horse.



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What was your favorite episode from Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac?

This question was posted to me on Facebook:

“Whats ur fave episode?”-Chelsey B.Remain calm and see the problem as an opportunity. Stacy Westfall quote

My favorite is probably Episode 26…the first three minutes. I love it because Jac is asking questions. That means that he is comfortable asking questions while at the same time he is still being respectful. To me this is a beautiful illustration of how the conversation between a horse and human can be.

The interesting thing is that in this episode many people would have said that Jac was being ‘bad’. I knew the history and I knew what I had been rewarding Jac for doing in previous lessons. I was also willing to see the situation from Jac’s perspective.

It is ok that Jac was making mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process. How people react to your mistakes says more about them than it says about the one who made the mistake.




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Could you have used a bosal instead of a bit for some of his training? Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Review

“Thanks so much Stacy for your honesty about what really happens! I really enjoy reading your blogs:) Back when Jac’s mouth was irritated, could you have used a bosal instead of a bit for some of his training? Happily following you from Williams Lake, BC, Canada” -Jen

A bosal is not the same as a mechanical hackmore. Click photo to see more bosals.

A bosal is not the same as a mechanical hackmore. Click photo to see more bosals.

I had the same thought myself. If you watch the video below, Episode 39, at the 2 minute mark, you will see that I did ride Jac a few times in a bosal. A bosal  has nothing in the mouth and is something that I am even allowed to show in, so I gave it a try.  But it didn’t work.

There were two issues here; physical and mental.

Physically, at least early on, there was still evidence that Jac’s mouth was irritated, even without a bit. When ridden his saliva was occasionally tinged with blood. I don’t know for sure if the riding irritated his mouth; breaking at the poll requires the lower jaw to slide forward. Maybe his mouth was irritated in the stall or in the run too…I don’t know for sure. I stopped poking around all the time because it bothered him and I wanted to let it heal.

Mentally, because I didn’t know if riding was irritating him…but it become a mental problem for me.

Sigmund Freud once stated, “A man with a toothache cannot be in love.”

Oddly enough, maybe the best way to say it is, I felt guilty riding him. Guilty because I could be causing him discomfort. The idea that I might be unfair in still riding him changed the way I felt about riding him. The problem with feeling guilty is that you ride like you are guilty.

When I ride I know that there is a mental connection. I am always training the mental as well as the physical horse. If I made Jac ‘push through the pain’ would he respect me for it? Would I respect me for it?  If I disrespect the horses feelings here, can I expect him to give me his ‘extra’ when it really matters?

If another similar situation were to occur I would use a bosal again. Just because it didn’t work well in this situation doesn’t mean I don’t like the tool. I like a bosal on some horses. Much like different bits have different ‘side effects’, so does a bosal. I think that riding in a bosal encourages the rider to have more ‘feel’. Some horses respond well to a hackmore but other horses find them easy to ignore. I still keep one around to use at times and the best part is they look AMAZING!


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