Category: Horse Training

The Difference Between A Very Good Rider And A Top Rider


award-155595_120-2The ability to stay strong and not make mistakes when under pressure is what turns a good rider into a top rider.

After winning the 2010 World Equestrian Games as well as the 2011 European Championships, Michael Jung (GER) was hot favorite to win the 2012 London Olympics eventing competition. But he placed a disappointing 11th after the first phase, the dressage, which meant he then had to somehow beat ten of the world’s top riders over the two more difficult phases, the cross-country and showjumping, to win.

He did it – he won, and became the first rider to hold simultaneous Olympic, World and European championships.

With all of that pressure on him, how did he mentally block out all the doubts and fears that would intimidate mere mortals?

Having witnessed this astonishing display of steely nerves, Dutch researcher Inga Wolframm, PhD, MSc, of Wageningen University and Research Center, conducted a study in early 2013 of 73 US showjumpers competing at an elite show. She presented her findings at the 2013 International Society of Equitation Science conference. These findings included:

  • Women tended to think more negatively than men.
  • The longer you participate in a sport, the better you become at using mental skill.
  • The better you are, the more automated your skills.

Read the full report from The Horse here.

Pure physical skill is only one aspect of achieving success, and that experience and mental muscle-memory can make the vital difference between not winning – or winning.

And women do not have as much self-confidence as men …

Books you might like to check out:



















Cadre Noir Doing What It Does Best – Classical Dressage

Founded in 1828, the Cadre Noir of the French National Riding School in Saumur gets its name from the black uniforms that are still used today. It is one of four of the most prestigious horsemanship schools in the world,  the most famous of which is the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.

But where the Spanish Riding School consists exclusively of grey Lippizaner stallions, the Cadre Noir uses Thoroughbreds, Anglo-Arabians, Hanovarians, Lusitanos and Selle Francais horses in their performances, as well as a combination of geldings and mares. They also include jumping in their performances and cross country work in their training.

Here is a lovely video that showcases some of their work:

There are also two other schools of classical dressage that are perhaps not so well-known, the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez, Spain and the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art in Lisbon.  The Spanish Riding School uses only grey Lippizaner stallions. These four ancient schools continue to promote the art of classical training, including the famous high school movements that include the airs above the ground.

Read more about the Cadre Noir here.



The Eventer’s Nightmare – Dressage!

Dressage arena.jpgI don’t know too many eventers who luuurve dressage.  Most dislike it in varying degrees, from it being simply a nuisance to manic hatred – dressage is considered to be boring, time consuming and unbelievably hard.

However, eventing is made up of three compulsory phases –  cross country, showjumping and DRESSAGE – and even the worst haters of dressage eventually have to concede that they have to take dressage training seriously.  Gone are the days where you could fudge the dressage phase and make up your score by good, fast, clear cross country and showjumping rounds.  Today, more often than not, the placegetters finish on their dressage score, which makes getting a good dressage score vitally important.

Kate Samuels, writing for Eventing Nation, recently posted her experience of attending a dressage show in an attempt to improve her dressage score for her eventing.   We thought you might enjoy reading about her Day with the Dressage Divas and what she learned from her tests …


By Kate Samuels on 

Anybody who knows me will tell you that dressage isn’t my strong point. I’ve blamed it on a lot of things throughout the years, namely that it’s “boring”; that my upper-level horse isn’t a very good mover anyway, so it doesn’t matter since he’s not going to win that phase; and that studying dressage was for weenies. All of these are really legit reasons, right? No … not really.

Nyls also struggles with dressage, which is partly my fault and partly a symptom of his personality. Characteristics that make him an unbelievable cross-country horse, such as having wicked fast reactions, an ability to anticipate the next step in a combination and a bull-headedness that will conquer any scary horse-eating jump, also make him more than a little difficult to ride on the flat. He is the king of memorizing movements in a test and therefore just anticipating like heck and not even waiting for the cue (ahem … lead changes).

However, I finally, finally, finally took the plunge this year and told myself that I had to buckle down and learn this stuff. I was sick of having the casual throw-away score, and despite Nyls’ disliking of the phase, I knew he could do better. Eventing lets you forget sometimes that your dressage wasn’t great, because you can end on the high note of a brilliant cross country or a clean show jumping, but I’m on a mission to change that.

So, yesterday, I competed at my very first recognized dressage competition … [Read more here …]


Eventing is a tricky sport in that it involves so many individual disciplines.  Which aspect of eventing do you like best? What problems do you have with your eventing horse and dressage training?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

The Correct Way To Bandage Or Wrap Your Horse’s Legs [Video] - Polo bandages.jpgThere are many reasons you may want or need to bandage your horse’s legs, and many different types of bandage or leg-wraps are available to do the job.

Polo bandages are generally made of a thick fleece material and are used mainly for protection:

  • For ridden work;
  • For lungeing;
  • When the horse is turned out in a yard or pasture.

Leg wraps are thick pads that must be worn under all bandages except polo wraps.  They spread the pressure of the bandage and thus prevent damage to the horse’s leg (especially the tendons) from bandages that are too tight, or are put on with uneven pressure.

It is vital that you know how to safely and correctly put on polo wraps and standing wraps on horses.

Wrapped too tightly, a horse’s leg can suffer a bowed tendon or other injury;  too loose, and the bandage can slip down and may be stepped on and torn.  Poorly applied work bandages could cause injury to the horse and/or the rider if they come loose during exercise.

After the bandages have been removed, the horse’s legs should be given a brisk rub in an upwards direction to stimulate circulation.

Always wash your horse’s bandages after use. Never use dirty bandages, as soiled material is stiff and hard.

Watch this how-to video for the proper leg-wrapping technique from the Certified Horsemanship Association:

Other types of bandages

Stable bandages are used:

  • For warmth and to keep the circulation active;
  • To assist in the drying-off of wet legs;
  • For keeping poultices in position;
  • To protect legs while travelling;
  • To prevent the legs from filling.

Exercise bandages are used:

  • As a protection against injury during work.

Surgical bandages are used:

  • To cover and protect wounds;
  • For poulticing of the leg when there is a likelihood of swelling;
  • For wounds on joints.

All of these bandages require leg wraps underneath them to help spread the pressure of the bandage.

Horse bandages of all types and colors can be purchased at all tack stores and some feed stores, but here is a selection available at Amazon to get you started:











Horse Won’t Stand Still While You Do Up The Girth? Here’s How To Fix A Cinchy Horse! - How to fix a cinchy horseSometimes we get a horse who doesn’t like it when we go to do up the girth or cinch.  They won’t stop moving, dance around, or even buck – which is annoying at best, and can be downright dangerous at worst. Also, it’s not good for your saddle if it hits the ground before the buckle is able to be secured!

A girthy or cinchy horse can be a real problem, so it’s much better to stop it happening in the first place.

Here are a few videos that may help you make sure you’re safe before you step into the saddle …

I hope you find that the information in these videos help you stay safe when you get on your horse.

Fixing A Head Tilt - Fixing a head tiltWhen you ask your horse to turn, does he tilt his head instead of bending through the poll, so that one ear is lower than the other?

Three-time Olympian dressage coach, Jane Savoie, has some exercises for you to try that encourage the horse to soften through the poll:

If your horse tilts his head and carries one ear lower than the other, chances are he’s stiff at the poll. You might see first see this on circles or the lateral work with a bend such as shoulder-in, haunches-in, and half pass.

Here’s an exercise you can do to supple your horse’s poll.

  • Start in the halt on the rail so you can check that you’re keeping your horse’s body absolutely straight. If he’s straight, his body is parallel to the rail from nose to tail.
  • When you start to supple the poll, keep his neck parallel to the rail. The most common mistake is to bend the neck. Your horse can bend his neck and still stay locked in his poll.
  • Use an indirect rein to move his face only one inch to the left and one inch to the right so you can just see his inside or outside eye and/or nostril (this is also sometimes called position left and position right, flexion and counter-flexion, or +1 and -1).
  • Remember, when you use an indirect rein, keep your fingers softly closed around the reins. Then, turn your wrist quickly and smoothly as if you’re locking or unlocking a door, turning the ignition key (right hand) to start your car, or scooping a spoonful of sugar out of a bowl.
  • Don’t vibrate the reins while suppling the poll. That will just flex your horse’s jaw and close the angle at his throatlatch.
  • When turning your wrist, keep your hands (Read more here …)

Did you find her suggestions helpful?  Let us know in the comments below.  If you know someone who is having this problem with their horse, feel free to share this article with them.

Want to know more?  Check out her Happy Horse Home Study Course.

Halter Training The Foal With Clicker Training

Use Clicker Training to halter train your foalClicker Training is a training method in which the horse (in this case, a foal) quickly learns when he has made the correct response when he hears the clicker and the stimulus is immediately removed. Here are a couple of videos that clearly demonstrate this.

This first video shows the foal being set up to have the halter put on and learning to lead. You can see how every time the foal shows interest in the halter, he hears the clicker which he soon learns means he has done the right thing. The halter is immediately removed and he receives a treat or lots of rubbing. Eventually he becomes desensitized to the presence and feel of the halter and ignores it. No force has been used – just lots of positive reinforcement.

This second video show basically the same techniques with some personal variation.

I hope you enjoyed these videos and learned something about how to train a foal with a clicker and saw just how easy it is. If you continue the foal’s training in this manner, you are on your way to having a calm, well-mannered foal.

To learn more about how to clicker train, have a look at Alexandra Kurland’s authoritative book “The Click That Teaches: A Step-By-Step Guide in Pictures”, a comprehensive training guide that takes you from clicker basics to advanced training.



How To Use Your Seat Instead Of The Reins

Use your seat not your reinsWhen we were first learning to ride, many (most?) of us were told to simply kick the horse to go and pull the reins to slow down or stop. As we became more experienced, we realized that there was more to it than that, and that pulling on the horse’s mouth, while it mostly made him stop (in varying degrees of effectiveness), many times it wasn’t very pleasant for the horse or the rider. And finally, after being terrified or even injured by a bolting horse where the more we pulled, the faster he went, it was clear we needed a new game plan.

We saw people whose horses stopped easily and happily on a light or even loose rein. They told us the secret was to “Use your seat, not your reins.”

But how do you do that? This article from EQ Magazine explains it …

“Use Your Seat Instead of Your Reins”

By: Editor In Chief, EQ Magazine

It’s important not to use your reins to control the things that you should use your seat to control. If you pull on the reins to steady rhythm, slow speed, decrease the length of stride or do downward transitions, you BLOCK the hind legs from coming forward.

So, make it your goal to develop a knee jerk reaction to use your seat instead of your hands for each of those four things.

Your seat can be used in four different ways:

1. Passive Following Seat
– Your passive, following seat tells your horse that everything (his rhythm, speed, and the gait) stays the same.
– Simply open and close your hips to follow the current movement of your horse.

2. Driving Seat
– Your driving seat tells your horse to increase his speed or length of stride.
– Think of pushing the back of saddle toward the front of the saddle, polishing the saddle from back to front, or pretending you’re pushing a swing higher in the air.

3. Retarding or Stilled Seat
– The stilled seat steadies the rhythm, slows the speed, decreases the length of stride, or asks for a downward transition.
– Sit in a “ready” position by stretching up tall so you have a gentle curve in the small of your back.
– Then, contract or tighten your tummy muscles like you’re doing a sit-up. This action braces your lower back and stops your hips from following your horse’s movement.

4. To Control the Position of Your Horse’s Body
– Your shoulders should be parallel to your horse’s shoulders, and your hips should be parallel to his hips.

Words of wisdom! It may be simple, but it’s not necessarily easy, depending on your level of ability, understanding, and pre-existing bad habits. Get a good instructor to help you. No-one has ever learned good horsemanship on his own!