Tag Archives: first

Stacy Westfall’s first time riding bridleless on Newt

Yippy! Newt is giving bridleless riding a try!

This is a video of the first time I took the bridle off Newt and rode him around. Newt is six years old in this video and I started his under saddle training as a two year old.  I had been practicing the cue system during his entire training. For several months before this I had also been tying the reins up and focusing on riding with only my body, leg and voice cues. I chose to ride with a neck rope (one of my reins removed from my bridle) because Newt liked the familiar feeling of the neck rein cues and was more relaxed and confident.

Please realize that many, many hours of training have happened prior to this and you should not try riding bridleless unless you are confident that you have a clear communication system with your horse that doesn’t rely on the bridle in case of an emergency. The prior sentence is not meant to be reversed to imply that the bridle should be your emergency system…but the reality is that for many people the bridle is their strongest form of communication with their horse in an emergency.

If I sound a bit concerned it is because I know that other videos of me riding bridleless have inspired many people to give it a try. Many have had success but there have been a few that have been injured because they (either horse or rider or both) were not properly prepared. Just last year I met a trainer who said one of his youth girls broke her leg while trying to imitate my ride.

Clear communication through consistent training is the key…I’m just saying don’t just pull the bridle off and hope for the best as it isn’t fair to either you or your horse 🙂

This was videoed in February 2015 while we were in California. You may also find it interesting that I have only ridden him bridleless a handful of times between then and now as I am still continuing to advance his ‘in the bridle’ training.


Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Thought provoking, Training, Video


Tags: , , , , ,

A Horse’s View: Newt meets his first elk

Dear Diary,

As you know we have been moving a lot. We have been in our current location in Flag-staff for three days. It is nice here. I have a stall with shavings and I can still go outside and play games with Hope.

The stuff up here isn’t as poke-y to taste test as it was at the last place. I did find something unusual today. I think he might have been a distant couzin but he was pretty shy. I tried to chase him down so I could ask him a few questions but Mom wouldn’t let me. She doesn’t understand.

Maybe he will come visit me tonight. An owl visited last night. I will stay up all night and see.

Newt, the horse, signature


Posted by on February 6, 2015 in A Horse's View, Video


Tags: , , , , , ,

Is it true when people say “you will ruin your first horse?”

“Stacy, is it true when people say “you will ruin your first horse?”-Lindsay H.

My first equine was a very well trained pony.

My first equine was a very well trained pony.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. I know from experience that you will make more mistakes with your first horse because you are learning…but that is also true with your first dog and your first child. Does that mean that the horse will be ruined? Not necessarily. Safety should be the primary goal for both horse and owner in all situations. When I think of a horse being ‘ruined’ I think of a dangerous horse. A horse can learn to be dangerous either on the ground or when being ridden and it is easier for a new horse owner to miss the warning signs. Horses that learn they can bully humans usually don’t have a great future. The question might be: Is it hard for a new horse owner to avoid creating a dangerous horse?

Let’s go back to the first dog or the first child idea. How do those people handle the ‘first time’ part? People with similar interests tend to hang out together and they learn from each other. They read books, watch YouTube videos and join clubs. Many people take lessons before becoming first time horse owners and then they continue taking lessons after purchasing their horse. Barns that offer this type of lesson program often build an entire culture that supports the new horse owner. Getting involved with a professional is a great way to prevent major mistakes from going unnoticed.

It is also true that if your first horse is an old pro then it is less likely that you will ‘untrain’ with your mistakes as quickly as you would with a more impressionable young horse. Older horses with experience may seem more expensive in the beginning but if well trained they should contain valuable information that makes them more solid and often less expensive in the long run.

I know that when I look back at the first ten or so horses I trained, I have no doubt that if I had them again now I could do a much better job. Does that mean they were ruined? No. Did they reach their maximum potential? No. Were they dangerous? No. Can I live with that? Yes.




Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Life, Members Question


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Asking my horse, Newt, to lie down while I’m riding him.

Here is another video where you get to watch Newt think. It should remind you of watching Newt learn how to stand on the box. The more things I teach a horse the more I can learn about how they think and process what I am doing. Can you see the consistency in Newt’s thought patterns?

I forgot to mention that I was cueing him by tapping his belly with the lead rope. If you watch for it you can see it. If your curious about how that works you can read my previous blog about teaching a horse to lie down.  When you watch the video of Jac learning to lie down, can you see the similarities to watching Newt learn how to step up on the box? Can you see how allowing them time to think gives them the opportunity to participate in the training by making choices?

Below is a copy of Newt’s previous diary entry from March 21, 2014

I also made an interesting discovery this week.

My mom has been riding me on a very loose rein…she even took the bridle off once.

That made it really easy to play in the dirt. I like digging in dirt with my nose.

Newt bow

Well, I had my head down to push dirt and a thought occurred to me.

I don’t have thoughts often…so I decided to go with it.

You see, mom has been teaching me to lay down sometimes.

I like it.

It is easy.

She doesn’t have me do it while we are riding.

She should.

It would be easier.

So I decided to lay down.

This is a bit embarrassing to admit…I got stuck half-way down.

It happened like this; mom asked me to move my hip, I did and I put my head down too, I had the idea to lay down, I buckled my legs and went down on my knees…and then mom started kicking me.

I guess she didn’t want me to lay down…but I couldn’t get up either (I fell over once trying and with her on me I didn’t want to do that)…so I just knelt there. She got off and got me up.

Newt 1st lay down

I wasn’t sure if she was happy I had the idea…or not.

Later, at the end of the ride she showed me a cue to lay down. I was so excited! She must have liked my earlier idea.

The next few days I tried laying down but I guess I’m only supposed to do it when she asks me to.

Newt, the horse, signature


Posted by on February 2, 2015 in A Horse's View, Video


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s in your first aid kit for your horse?

If you have had horses for longer than a week you probably have some kind of a first aid kit. It might be as simple as some ointment you picked up while you were buying feed or it could be enough equipment to rival an equine medical clinic. It is also likely that the longer you have had horses the more items you have accumulated. First aid kit for horses

My items start with the basics. An ointment for minor cuts or scrapes (I have Novalsan), another ointment to keep flies away from cuts and scrapes (SWAT) and vet wrap if that cut or scrape is somewhere that it can, or should, be wrapped up. Vet wrap, or other self sticking wrap, will deteriorate in the unopened package so be sure to replace it if you have had it sitting around for awhile. It is incredible frustrating when you need it, have it, but then find out it won’t work. Scissors are a must have also. My husband carries all his shoeing supplies so I also have a variety of larger cutting tools available at my horse trailer for bigger jobs.

A thermometer is a great diagnostic tool and your vet will be happy if you have already done your homework. Practice taking your horses temperature now…it is no fun to be training a sick horse while you are stressed.

I keep a digital thermometer around because they are unbreakable but I dislike that the batteries die especially in the cold weather. At my house thermometers have a cycle: 1)grocery store  2)medicine cabinet for humans 3)barn for horses. Once they go to the barn…there is NO COMING BACK!  Then I buy another one at the grocery store. I could save myself this hassle if I would buy another mercury thermometer, but I had one break in the house (it was still in stage 2 of the life cycle) and I learned that cleaning up mercury is a nightmare. 

When we packed up to begin traveling I made sure that we had Banamine on board. It is only available from your vet and comes in both an oral paste or a liquid. Obviously you will need to talk to your vet about this one. It is an items that I always travel with because it is the first thing that a vet will give a horse if they suspect colic. Having it on hand makes it easier when I call the vet because, if they want me to give some Banamine and watch the horse before they make a house call, I have it ready to go.

These are five of the items that made it into my first aid kit. What are the minimum items you would recommend to a new horse owner?

What items would be in your ultimate first aid kit?


Posted by on December 9, 2014 in Life, Thought provoking


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Swimming my horse…and the Art of Living.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. ” -James A. Michener

Some people call me crazy but I would argue that I am pursuing the art of living. Take this weeks blend of work and play. The Western Shooting Horse magazine wanted to do a photo shoot with me in the beginning of November so they asked me where I would be. I told them Maine…but warned them that the weather could be unpredictable.

The photo shoot was scheduled for November 5th…and on November 2nd the first snow storm of the year hit Maine shutting down roads and leaving well over 100,000 without power. Being the crazy horse people that we all are (we admit that all horse people are a little crazy, right) we never even considered moving the photo shoot.

Don’t get me wrong, photo shoots are fun…but they are also lots of work. Hours are spent preparing the horses, the humans, and picking locations. Did I mention it was cold? If a photo shoot is done well then the viewer can’t see that it was really hot, super cold or that the biting flies were trying to carry you away.

The weather did try to make a nice turn around for the shoot. Most of the snow was melted although we did take photos with snow in them. The best part about this shoot was that the photographer, Scoop, let me pick a lot of the locations. We aimed for the most predictable locations first…and then they let me have fun!

Growing up I would swim my horses at this boat landing frequently and I thought the backdrop was beautiful. I did have one request; after the photos that were needed were done, I wanted to swim my horse.

So what that we had almost half a foot of snow a few days ago…or that my horse had never been ridden bareback…or that my horse had never been swimming for that matter…lol.

If I read the above quote by Michener then I will leave you to decide if I was working or playing…but I will tell you it was chilly!

P.S.- Before you panic about the water being too cold for Newt, I can assure you that we didn’t stay in very long and he had nice warm coolers waiting for him when we got out. When my kids ran cross country they would ‘ice’ their bodies to promote healing. I have heard that Native Americans would stand their horses in cold water to ice their legs. The swim was actually refreshing…in one of those ‘polar bear club’ kind of ways!

To listen to a radio interview where I also talk about swimming, click here.


Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Life, quote, Video


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Freestyle choreography: Reining, dressage, do it yourself or hire a pro

“I have recently thinking about trying freestyle reining. One of my stumbling blocks is the actual choreography of the routine. I know some of my dressage friends hire professional freestyle dressage choreographers. How do you choreograph your routines? Do you do it yourself? Do you hire someone to help?”-Janna L.

I have watched dressage freestyle and can see the benefit of having a professional choreographer. The routines are amazing and for most of the performance the maneuvers they execute are VERY timed with the music. In general the reining freestyles are not as precisely timed to the music. The reiners also tend to pick popular songs and dress to fit the music, often ‘acting’ out their interpretation of the song. Dressage riders are more likely to mix and create the music…but skip the costume.

I choreograph my own freestyles. All of the reiners I have talked to, as well as several of my friends, have choreographed their own with input and suggestions  from friends. I don’t know any professional freestyle reining choreographers, maybe if reining makes it into the Olympics this will become a profession.

Whether the routine is choreographed by a pro or by you, here are some common themes you will see among great freestyle.

  • the tempo of the song must match the horse– in dressage they match the music precisely to the step. In reining keep in mind that a horse with short strides will probably look out of time if the music is long and flowing.
  • strong maneuvers win-you are still being judged by the maneuvers you perform-keep them clean and precise. Something may sound fun to do but if it compromises the quality of the maneuver the judge will notice. Plan how to keep the maneuvers clean and add something special as well.
  • don’t over ride your horse-when the music is loud and the crowd is excited you will be able to feel the energy in the air-it will be tempting to ask your horse to go faster and try harder which can lead to over riding. An example of over-riding in reining would be asking a horse that can do a solid set of spins to go even faster, this often results in the spins getting worse instead of better, which is the definition of over-riding.

Keep in mind that this is your first freestyle, winning doesn’t have to be your main goal. Sure, winning is nice but remember to make it a learning experience for both you and your horse.  Enjoy the excitement and have fun!

Watch how the music and the horses movement are so well timed.

This is an example of a reining pattern ‘acting’ out the song. The first time I went to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and watched freestyle Randy Paul won with this routine. I love his addition of the handlebars…lol. That is one well trained pony!



Posted by on September 16, 2014 in Members Question, Video


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,