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So close to teaching your horse to bow; tips for progressing.

“Stacy, here is a video of my horse Raeyon as I am teaching her to bow. I would appreciate any suggestions on how to progress.” -Katherine K.

Thank you for sending me this video! There were a couple of things I noticed…so I made a video for you. You really are very close. When you are watching my video with Popcorn one thing you should notice is that both of our horses look sleepy, lol. I think this is great because they do not look stressed.

Keep in mind that when I put the rope on Popcorns leg for this video it had been over two months from the last time I had asked him to bow AND the last time I used a rope on him was well before that. I am telling you this so you can keep in mind that Popcorns response time was slow…but the good news is he was thinking. If I had repeated this rope test with him 5 minutes later, or if I had been bowing him more frequently I would have expected him to be a little quicker. Like most things, if you practice this often then it will become the answer your horse is looking for.

The main point here is that you can see that Popcorn knows that I am not going to release his leg from the rope until his knee touches the ground. Once he understands that with the rope we have crossed one hurdle.

The other hurdle is getting him to hold his leg up on his own without the rope. Once we have achieve that; the horse holding the leg up without the hoof touching the ground for an extended amount of time (1-2 minutes), then the bow with a tap alone is right there.

Stacy Westfall: Teaching your horse to bow

Full length training DVD on teaching the horse to bow.


Because the horse has already figured out that the ‘answer’ when the rope is used is to touch the knee down. He will eventually apply this idea to the leg being held up by the tap and….ta-da!

Your horse will bow from a simple tap.



Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Members Question, Training, Video


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Bitless riding gone bad: Have you ever seen a runaway horse or a wreck caused by someone riding without a bit?

Three comments left after my blog on ‘bridling questions’ got me thinking. Here are the comments;

1) Best tip for our horses ever was “go bitless”. So many issues solved with just that little statement.

2) I agree, Why use a bit, if you don’t have to?

3) Would be altogether better for the horse if we banished this archaic form of torture once and for all.

These comments lead me to wonder; Am I the only one with a ‘bitless gone bad’ story?

Teenaged Stacy Westfall and the horse that ran away with her when ridden in a halter. Stacy decided to focus on barrel racing instead.

Teenaged Stacy Westfall and the horse that ran away with her when ridden in a halter. Stacy decided to focus on barrel racing instead.

My story: When I was a teen I decided to try bitless riding for the first time. Actually, I decided to start working toward riding bridleless and I thought that bitless would be a great first choice.

I had owned my horse for several years and I knew her pretty well (or so I thought). On a day to day basis I was pretty sure I could do anything with her that I wanted. I could swim her in the lake, ride down the side of busy roads, dress her in costumes, ride in parades, and we trail rode almost everyday. I had never felt out of control while riding her on a trail ride.

It was a summer day and I mounted up riding in a thin leather halter, a similar diameter to the current rope halters. Before I left home I rode her around the pasture, up and down the driveway and performed all gaits and transitions.

For several miles all went well. Until I met another rider.

At first this didn’t seem to be a problem. The only thing I could see being a problem were if we ran and my horse thought we were racing. Sometimes my friends and I would race and I knew my horse was hard to hold back at those times.

As you can probably guess, there came a point where we were trotting together down the dirt road…then we were loping…then we were running.

I tried pulling.

I tried a sawing motion-left-right-left-right.

I tried pulling as hard as I physically could, then releasing and repeating.

I couldn’t circle because the sides of the road had deep ditches. Based on the fact that she didn’t steer AT ALL when I was sawing left-right-left-right, I doubt I could have turned her anyway. I considered jumping but was the odds were good that I would break something so I ended up just clinging on until she slowed and then I jumped off at the trot and lead my mare home.

I have always believed that this woman, an acquaintance my mother knew, was just wondering if her horse was faster. I don’t think she knew this would put me in danger…although I had yelled several times for her to slow down as things were escalating.

*                       *                            *

The above story was a story from my youth. It was told to give you a glimpse into the mind of a teenager who made a bad decision. The interesting part of the story is that I lacked the ability to know it was a bad decision at the time. My horse and I obviously didn’t have great training and I didn’t see even know I could really get in trouble.

This early experience, along with the knowledge I have now, leads me to believe that not all horses are bitless candidates.  Bits are motivators, horses are individuals and situations vary.

Did you ever try bitless and have a loss of control or know someone who did?


P.S.-added an hour after posting. It has been brought up that mechanical hackmores are being considered part of the bitless group of bridles by many who are commenting. I agree it has no mouthpiece…but oddly enough I had never considered it as one of the ‘bitless’ options. I did ride the above mare in a mechanical hackmore successfully…does that mean she was my first bitless horse?  That might have to be a whole other blog:)


Follow up: I am not against bridleless riding. After much more education I have trained many horses to the highest levels of bridleless riding. Here are a couple of blog that are related:

Stacy Westfall’s first time riding bridleless on Newt 

Stacy Westfall & Vaquero 2011 All American Quarter Horse Congress Freestyle Championship Bridleless

I won over $17,000 showing Roxy in my original wedding dress!


Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Life, Thought provoking


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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Episode 36- Teaching a horse to lay down…or not.

I consider teaching a horse to bow, lay down or other ‘tricks’ to be teaching advanced groundwork. I began to teach Jac to lay down because I wanted something that I could do in small areas where Jac might be distracted. The theory here is that instead of punishing Jac when he is distracted, I could instead ask him to go into the ‘end of the trail’ pose or lay down.

Using Newt and Jac in this video I show the basic idea of how I teach my horses to lay down. I doesn’t use any ropes during this process. First, I teach the horses to drop their heads when I cues them to. Then I teach the lay down by asking the horse to step forward with the hind legs while NOT stepping forward with the front legs. Eventually this puts the horse in the ‘end of the trail’ position. I prefer to put the horse into this position and then I will wait for the horse to find the easier way out…which is laying down.

I explain that I has chosen not to finish teaching the lay down to Jac at this time. My reason is that I want to keep things a bit more simple for Jac. If Jac made the mistake of laying down at a reining show he would be disqualified. Jac is already learning so many other cues that I changed my mind and decided to not teach this ‘trick’ so that Jac is less likely to make this mistake at a show.


Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video


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“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?


Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Inspiring, quote


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