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Hey Stacy, I was wondering, is 21 too old to teach some of the stuff in your videos?

“Hey Stacy, I was wondering, is 21 too old to teach some of the stuff in your videos? As I have a 21 year-old I’d love to do more work with. Thanks.” -Lydia S.

One of my refrigerator magnets.

One of my refrigerator magnets.

I was asked this question years ago by a young girl around the age of 13. She owned a  20+ year old horse. I told her that how much she accomplish would depend on her persistence and consistency and some on her horses willingness. She watched my demos at the expo and before it was over she bought my Bridleless riding DVD.

Several months later I received an email from her.  She sent me a link to a video where she was riding her horse bridleless! The horse was clearly a 4H type horse so her pattern looked more like a horsemanship pattern and her ‘rollbacks’ were simple pivots…but it was AWESOME! One young persistent girl and one older horse. I wish I still had that video link but all of this happened back in 2006 and the computer it was on died. I didn’t have anything backed up so it took all the info with it 😦

I can’t say exactly how far the stuff will take you…but I will tell you that it IS VERY POSSIBLE!

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Members Question, Training

 

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Will us (fans) ever see you doing another bridleless/bareback routine?

“Will us (fans) ever see you doing another bridleless/bareback routine??…. I remember seeing a video someone posted on youtube (you/Roxy/Maggie) … Templeton Thompson was singing your song…… but then Roxy died and then Vaquero and I guess Maggie is retired…. so I was wondering if you have given up on that dream… or have you even thought about at all?”-Lesia Lowe

I am a big believer that when the time is right, things will happen. My job is to be prepared. I don’t know if another bareback/bridleless routine will happen again or not. As you saw in the video with Roxy and Maggie (below) I was experimenting with this as a possibility. I wasn’t sure if I could ever get it to a show level…but Maggie never recovered from a suspensory injury that she sustained running in the pasture and we turned her into a broodmare. Did you realize that Maggie is Newt’s mom?

I work my horses and give them opportunities but they get to make choices too. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. I don’t lose sleep over it but I don’t sit on the couch thinking it will ‘just happen’ either. I work and then let the chips fall where they may…thats the mystery of life. I’m starting Newt’s two year old half sister right now (another Maggie baby) and I have plans to ride more of Roxy’s granddaughters.

I don’t know where life will lead…two years ago if you told me I would be living full time in a motor home I would have laughed at you…but I did leave the door open 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Inspiring, Members Question

 

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Success story: Teaching a horse to lie (lay) down

“Stacy, A while back you posted a video about laying your horse down… I followed it and today is day 5 and he has been down about 5 times now! Thank you for such a cool way to approach the lay down!” -Alisha P.

success story

Alisha watched Stacy’s video and taught her horse to lay down on cue!

I love finding success stories like this one posted on my Facebook page! It is inspiring for people to read that the techniques shown worked on someone else’s horse. Watching a video or reading tips online can be intimidating but reading about someone having success make it a bit less so. Here are some of the comments and questions that Alisha has received about here experience:

Alisha P. could you share that link for me. Please thank you

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2…

Kyla J…. Hope that link works… If not just YouTube Stacy westfall laying horse down. Such a cool way of teaching a horse to lay down!

thank you.. I have a candiate i want to teach…

Alisha P. how easy was this to teach?? I have a crazy smart apply guy… Would like to try this.. how well did Nelson bring his feet together.

He went down on day 4… First day I just put him on the fence to teach the concept…. Day two expected him to build on day 1. Day 3 started asking for him to walk his back feet up in the middle of the pen off the fence. Day 4 would ask him to hold the position and go further. Sometimes when he would make a mistake he would quickly correct himself and start to buckle in his front end like he was thinking down. When he did go down it was his idea and he was really quite. I have done it 4 times since then and each time he goes down faster and faster. Nelsyn has a really good foundation and was ready for this next step. I found it to be great way to teach the lay down and can’t wait to try it on another horse! Good luck and have fun teaching your horse… Let me know how it goes!

This conversation is happening right now on the ‘Posts to Page’ section of my Facebook account. If you want to ask Alisha a question jump on there and ask her…she hasn’t had any warning but she has been trying to answer people. If you have a question for me feel free to post it in the comments here. I have also embedded the video Alisha used below as well.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Members Question, Video

 

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3 Things to Remember with Horses that ‘drop their shoulders’

In yesterday’s blog I explained that the term ‘dropped shoulder’ is often used to describe several things, the most common being 1) the horse wanting to turn to early 2) a lack of elevation/collection combined with the desire to turn (for my full explanation read yesterdays blog)

Why does it happen? To answer that we need to look at it from the horses point of view.

Many people commented that this was happening to them in the arena or when barrel racing. What do these have in common? A pre-definded and predictable path of travel. If you are riding counter-clockwise around the arena for several laps it doesn’t take the horse long to figure out the pattern of; go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left.

If you have practiced the barrel pattern enough times for your horse to know it then your horse is mentally doing the same thing as the horse above only applied to the barrel pattern. In this example your horse could be thinking; run fast, turn right, run fast, turn left, run fast, turn left run fast!

In both examples the horses are dealing with the same thing: anticipation.

Viewed from another angle, your horse is really just trying to help you out, lol.

On the surface it seems like maybe just changing the routine would be the fix, stop going around the arena or the pattern so many times, but I would argue that the dropped shoulder is most often a stage of training. Attempting to avoid anticipation sounds good…but it isn’t very realistic. What we really want- and need- is a horse that is mentally mature enough to see something coming (anticipate) and still wait for the rider to give the cue.

a plan encouragesI frequently ride in arenas but I don’t frequently deal with my horse dropping his shoulder. Why? There can be multiple reasons, I will list three:

  1. good use of the arena
  2. proper seat
  3. horse ‘between reins and legs’

I have inserted a rough diagram of a pattern I use when I lope in an arena. This pattern allows me to be aware of all three of the points listed above. As a rider, I will be more clear and precise if I have a specific goal. Making it around the arena to the left isn’t specific enough. How many straight lines will I make during this pattern? On each of theses straight lines my focus will be on riding my horse straight ahead, straight between my reins and legs. My eyes will pick a point straight ahead.  On two of the curves I will move my horses shoulder out before turning. On the other two turns I will keep him balanced and even. I will be aware if I feel the urge to lean. I will also be aware if I feel the horse lean left or right. My focus on the pattern has lead to (1. good arena use) which has stopped me from leaning (2. proper seat) and I am aware of (3. horse is between my reins and legs).

But what if my horse does lean? What if he doesn’t go straight when I ride him straight? My general rule is that I will help him find the correct answer subtlety once or twice but then I will make a correction. On a straight line that could mean that I pick up to maintain straightness and then let go, notice he is drifting again, pick up to maintain straightness, let go, and then I will pick up and change his path of travel by 6-12 inches while collecting him (the correction). There are many methods for correcting the horse but it becomes slightly less confusing as you begin to realize that you are correcting him for ignoring one of your cues.

When the horse ‘drops the shoulder’ many riders are tempted to ‘hold him up’ causing a shift in responsibility. Eventually the rider feels the need to ‘hold him up’ frequently which is also another way of saying that the rider has to “hold the steering wheel slightly turned to the right to keep the car going straight”….

…that’s a problem.

Which cue is your horse ignoring or leaning into? Is he ‘requiring’ you to hold three pounds of pressure with your inside leg to keep him going straight?  Can you name three exercises or corrections that you have done in the past that cause the horse to be more respectful of the cue he is ignoring? If not, it might be time for a riding lesson or clinic with a pro.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Members Question, Thought provoking, Training

 

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What is a ‘dropped shoulder’ in a horse and how can I fix it?

horse drop shoulder dropping fixYesterdays blog discussed ‘Confusing terms people use around horses‘ and the following comment showed up on the Facebook post.

 “I’ve been yelled at – and still don’t know what a dropped shoulder is.”-Karen S.

This is a great example of a confusing term. I agree that people over use this term AND I believe it would be possible to sit down with three different professionals and have at least three different definitions of the term.

Dropped shoulder:

  1. the horse leaves the desired path of travel around the arena, cutting to the inside
  2. the horse desires to leave the current path of travel and turn early, the rider uses a cue to keep him from doing so (inside rein, inside leg) resulting in the feeling that if the rider ‘let go’ or stopped ‘holding him up’ the horse would ‘fall in’
  3. a lack of elevation in the front end combined with the desire to turn to soon

In general the term is used when the horse wants to cut to the inside of the path of travel. This happens more often when a horse is ridden in a riding arena. It doesn’t take a horse too long to figure out that if you are traveling counter-clockwise around an arena that the pattern is; go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left…..you get the point.

Soon the horse thinks, “A left turn is coming….lets do it now.” and the ‘dropped’ shoulder has begun. Keep in mind that the shoulder can’t be ‘dropped’ unless at some point it is being held. Stop ‘holding the shoulder up’ and what happens?

I would argue that most of the time a ‘dropped shoulder’ is nothing more than cutting a corner. Ever been at a 4 way stop in your car? Ever had someone turn and almost hit the front corner of your car? They were ‘dropping their shoulder’….but clearly the car wasn’t leaning. People tend to mean ‘dropping the shoulder’ when the horse is simply ‘turning too early’.

Is it fixable? Yes, but the rider has to be willing to stop ‘holding him up’ and let him make the mistake. When he leaves the path of travel the rider needs to correct it…and then let him go and probably make the mistake again. Ultimately the horse must become responsible for ‘holding’ his own shoulder up because he knows you will correct him and then let go again. There is a huge difference between correcting the issue vs becoming part of the problem.

This is how I define a dropped shoulder…but is that what your riding instructor means?

P.S.-this post triggered a follow up post ‘3 Things to Remember with Horses that ‘drop their shoulders’

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2015 in Members Question, Thought provoking, Training

 

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4 Steps for Training a Horse for Mounted Shooting

This video shows the second time that Newt was around mounted shooting. The first time was shown in the video “3 Steps for Introducing a Horse to Mounted Shooting.” If I had one tip for someone who wanted to get started in the sport it would be to find a local club or a local professional who you can ride with. You can also see from this video that both of us are wearing earplugs.

Step #1- How Does He Handle the Environment

The first thing I do with a new horse is to watch how they react to other people shooting. You can see in this video that Newt is surprised at the first shot but then quicky turns to interested. If your horse is nervous, agitated or shows others signs of being unsure I would recommend staying in this step. I forgot to video tape it but I kept riding out to replace the balloons. Often at club meets you can bring your horse and simply set balloons. This way your horse is exposed to the environment without a lot of pressure.

Step #2-Dry Run

I like to practice dry runs and dry-firing. This is a great way to prove that you have control of your horse while riding one handed. You will also find that it takes coordination to handle the gun and the horse. It is important to be smooth with both and dry practicing is great. It also saves money because you don’t need ammo and balloons. If you have an interest in the sport but don’t have guns yet you could even do this step with a child’s cap gun.

Step #3- Follow an Experienced Horse

I showed this step in my last video but this time it is slightly modified. I am closer to the experienced horse and Newt is able to see more of the smoke and what I like to call the ‘disappearing balloon act’ which is surprising. Remember that in the first video the shooting has only been done behind Newt’s saddle so this is the first time it is in front and more visible. You can see he is a bit surprised at first.

Step #4-Shoot with a Seasoned Horse

In this step the seasoned horse is still riding along beside us but we have changed places.It should be noted that we are using blanks, there is no projectile. The black powder is enough to pop a balloon but also burns out after a short distance which is why this is a safe spectator sport. I am also using ‘light loads’ which means that there is less powder than what would be used in competition. This also means that it makes less noise, less smoke and has less reach. I like using the light loads for awhile with my horses.
Training the rider is a big part of this process. You can hear me correct myself by saying, “Don’t look down!” because when I went to switch my guns I looked at my holster. At this speed and during training this isn’t a big deal…but I need to train myself for when I will be running fast.
Mounted Shooting has been a great hobby for me and it has been a fun training tool. If I see one common mistake with new shooters it is not taking enough time when training their horses. The horses MUST be easy to control, one handed, at the speed you want to run the pattern WITHOUT shooting. If you can’t run the pattern smooth while dry-firing there is no reason to think it will get better when you add ammo.

Follow Up Tip:

I did take my own advice and I have ridden with other pros including both my club, The Northern Ohio Outlaws, and other pros. Thanks to Outlaw Annie aka Annie Bianco-Ellett for her time and coaching during this video.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Training, Video

 

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Measuring educational maturity in horses.

What level of understanding does your horse have?When training horses I am always observing their level of maturity. Sometimes this is measured by the number of correct responses that they have to training situations but other times it is measured by their general demeanor. Horses, like people, mentally mature at different rates. It is tempting to measure a horses maturity by ‘testing’ their knowledge of physical cues and knowledge of physical cues is one level of maturity.

Take for example the horse in this photo. She is making one of my favorite mistakes. I say ‘mistake’ because in reality she is taking the cue very literally and she is not reading the rest of the situation. I am standing on her left side but I have the line attached to the right side of the bit. I have been asking her to do inside turns on the lunge line but I have left the line attached to only the right side of the bit. I am testing her maturity level.

At this point I have asked for inside turns, left, right, left, right, around twenty times. About eighty percent of the time she gets the answer correct and does inside turns because most of the cues are coming from my body position. When she is focused on my body she is able to determine that, although the rein is attached to the right side of the bit, the pressure can mean more than literally ‘turn right’. When she is distracted she makes the mistake of regressing to a lower level of training, as she is doing in this photo, and she tries to turn right.

Eventually with practice she will be able to ‘read between the lines’ and make consistently mature decisions. Decisions that are based on more that the literal translation of ‘pressure on the right side means turn right’ which is a good thing….because neck reining and many other advanced maneuvers require a higher level of maturity and an ability to ‘read between the lines.’

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Thought provoking, Training

 

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