Tag Archives: liberty

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 🙂


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


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How do I get my horse lighter and more respectful of the halter?

“My Paint mare was injured so I am ponying her to get her ready to ride again. I love the info you provided. It has helped a lot. I wear gloves when I pony a horse or lunge a horse so I don’t get rope burns. I would like to know how to get a horse lighter in a halter. I have been using a rope halter but my horse still pulls against it sometimes. How do I get her more respectful of the halter?”-Joyce P

The best way to get a horse lighter on the halter is to start to figure out how you can achieve the same results WITHOUT a halter. Your first step towards this goal will not be completely removing the halter. It does means that when you are working the horse while wearing the halter you must begin to try to achieve a loose rope between you and your horse. As you begin to think about how to make the lead rope less necessary you will begin to focus more on your body language and being consistent.

For example, if your horse tends to pull to the outside of the circle while lunging then you would need to practice inside turns and disengaging the hip. Both of these exercises bring the horses attention back toward you, the handler, on the inside of the circle.

If you are trying to get the horse to do an inside turn you might consider taking a step back as your first cue. Your second cue might be switching your stick n string from behind the horse (driving him forward) to in front of your horse (acting as a wall). If the horse still didn’t turn then you would pull on the rope to make contact and pull the horse to the inside. Next you would step your body forward to drive the horse back out onto the circle the other way. Can you see how there were two ‘cues’ before ever pulling on the rope? This gives the horse a chance to read the body language of the handler.

When the horse begins to realize that there are more cues than the halter they will often begin to get lighter to the actual halter when it is being used. The change doesn’t happen immediately but when it does it is long lasting.

The video below contains an example of giving a horse a chance and then following through. The method I am using of running ahead of the horse (Jac) and then pulling on the halter allows Jac to see what is coming and then make a choice. His choices are wrong in the beginning but eventually he catches on. It is a similar thought process to the inside turn describe above.

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Posted by on November 8, 2014 in Members Question, Training


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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Review – Questions about teaching a horse to lie down

Hi Stacy Westfall, regarding Episode 36: Is there any ‘age limit’ or health concerns such as arthritis, that would cause you to refrain from teaching a horse to lay down, regardless of how much it may benefit the horse’ s attitude?

I have barrel horses that can sometimes be pretty hot & was wondering what your thoughts were on getting them to lay down. They seem to be very nervous when I try to do it with them but I’m really just starting trying to get their foot up. Love watching you work with Jac.- Lisa Marie B

I consider both the bow and teaching a horse to lie down to be advanced groundwork. This means that your basic groundwork should be very well established including teaching your horse to: lead, turn on haunches, turn on forehand, back up, trot in hand, lunge easily at all gaits, sack out with ‘scary’ objects, stand quietly while whipping with stick n string, etc. Teaching liberty work, working your horse without a halter or lead, should be in the same category as bowing and the lie down.

Newt likes laying down on the job.

Newt likes laying down on the job.

By the time you have taught your horse all of the basic groundwork skills listed (and more) you should know your horses temperament very well. This will tell you a lot about how your horse is going to handle the process of learning to lie down on cue. Naturally quiet and submissive horses tend to be the easiest to train. These are the horses that are fine with you walking into the stall while they are napping.

Horses that are more naturally jumpy and nervous tend to be more difficult, which makes sense as they are often making plans on how to leave if things go bad. These horses can be taught to lie down but they require a very solid foundation in the basic groundwork skills. They should be so solid in the basics; whipping around, being sacked out, loping one circle on the lunge line and then standing like they are bored, that they should look like they are NOT hot or nervous. These horses also benefit from learning at least some of the basic liberty skill, off line in a round pen, as shown in Episode 14.

I think that the idea that laying a horse down will change its attitude is largely a myth. I have seen horses that were forced to lie down with ropes and although some of them do get up with a shocked look, I have not noticed it to be a look that I want in my riding horses. I do think that the longer, slow process of teaching the lay down does have a positive effect as you will invest more time getting there.

Someone asked me once how young a horse could safely be taught to bow (without force) and I asked a vet. His opinion was that young horses are more flexible and, as long as it wasn’t forced, would be excellent candidates. If I were working with an older horse I would only do what they were comfortable with. If your older horse has arthritis bad enough to negatively effect his ability to lie down on his own in the stall or pasture then I would personally choose to skip teaching that horse. Many vets recommend that horses with ‘some’ arthritis stay active. I have some arthritis and it is recommended that I also stay active. The best thing to do is to ask the vet who diagnosed the horse for their opinion regarding training the horse to lie down.


Some basic liberty skills shown here:

Tips on teaching the bow:


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