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Trail riding in Ohio at Mohican State Park…bareback!

May in Ohio is a beautiful time to trail ride and one of my favorite places to go is Mohican State Park. Spring flowers and ferns are still sneaking up and because the leaves are not fully out yet it is possible to see further than you can in full summer. This day it was almost 85 degrees out but under the cover of the trees we stayed nice and cool.

One of my favorite parts of this ride are the multiple water crossings. The horses love to drink and play in the water before we head back up and down the many hills. This trip was also special because a good friend joined us and took her mare out for her first trail ride. I do have to admit that my pants were very wet and not very clean by the time I got done…and my inner legs were a bit sore…but I plan on doing it again as soon as possible!

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Life, Video

 

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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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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.

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

 

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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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Did my horse step on my foot on purpose?

“Yesterday my horse stepped on my foot! No LOL; it hurt.
Afterward, I decided maybe my horse was being disrespectful??? She knows where she’s putting her feet. If she had a foal, would she step on it? She was squirmy when I put the saddle on, (I can’t remember her stepping on me before this.) and she stepped on my foot with her hind foot as I tried to steady her. I’m not sure if I might have turned her head slightly with the reins… but if I did, is it her job to know where her feet are? I wonder if my feet were mud puddles if she would have missed. The weather was finally looking nice, and she did not have her mind on me, but was looking out at the pasture.
Maybe I’m being stupid… but any comments on this? Was this a show of disrespect?”

Do they take aim or is it an accident when they step on us?

Do they take aim or is it an accident when they step on us?

You make an interesting argument here. Your point about knowing where her feet would be if a mud puddle or a foal were involved were dead on correct. Pretty much everyone who has ridden for long knows that a horse can go to great lengths to avoid touching their foot to an object or mud puddle if they are committed to NOT stepping there.

I think your issue, her stepping on your foot, was YOUR issue, not hers. She clearly doesn’t have the same concern for your foot as she does a mud puddle. Sad thought but…

My guess is that you are probably accurate when you say that she was distracted and didn’t have her mind on you and was looking out in the pasture. She should have some responsibility for paying attention to you and you should have some responsibility for paying attention to her. It sounds like you became aware that she was distracted…was that before or after she stepped on you? Part of your job is to notice the distraction and either correct her for it or realize that you need to be aware that the distraction could lead to ignoring you to some degree, which puts you at risk.

Most of the horses I have seen step on people were distracted and not paying attention to the person near them. Thankfully I cannot remember the last time that I was stepped on by a horse because I am very aware. Around my more well trained horses I expect them to watch me but I am always watching them to know where they are at mentally. When I am around younger horses I take even more of the responsibility upon myself to use self defense and stay aware.

Can a horse ‘take aim’ and step on you? I’m sure it is possible. I have seen them take aim and step on other things; tarps, dogs, and more…but I really hope my horse isn’t aiming for me!

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2015 in Members Question, Training

 

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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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