Perhaps it’s the overuse of the term by controversial animal trainers or maybe Fifty Shades of Grey has just made it impossible to say the word without the image of whips and restraints popping into our minds, but ‘dominance’ seems to me to be one of the most misunderstood and misused terms in horsemanship. Dominance training theories have been around since humans first started training horses, and while our understanding of herd dynamics and training techniques have evolved, the dominance theory still dominants (pun intended) modern-day training. But how do we define dominance and does dominance have a place in good horsemanship? … More Does Dominance Have a Place in Horsemanship?
What few trainers talk about is how subjective ‘feel’ can be. Timing is simple if you are looking only for a physical change – for your horse to take a step back, put his foot on a pedestal, or move up a gait. But what about when the thing you are looking for is more than just physical? What about when you are looking for your horse to soften mentally, rather than physically; to not just perform a movement, but to perform it with energy, calmness, or fluidity; when you want to affect a change in your horse’s thoughts, not just their physicality? … More The Subjectivity of Feel and Timing
One of my most hated mantras is: ‘Perfect practice makes perfect’. Not because I don’t agree with the theory behind it (that there is no point in practicing the wrong thing and expecting to improve) but because it leaves no room for mistakes. We shouldn’t be so limited by our desire to do something ‘right’ that we become afraid to do it wrong. We should never feel embarrassed, ashamed or stupid for trying, even if we fall flat on our faces. Nor should we ever feel constrained by what one person determines to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
If the fear of making mistakes is greater than the desire to learn, then learning becomes impossible. … More Why You Shouldn’t be Afraid of Making Mistakes
I recently took a clinic with Elsa Sinclair at Discovery Horseback Tours Costa Rica and since returning to my horses, I’ve been playing around with her concepts of Freedom Based Training™. I won’t go into the details of that here, because no-one explains it better than her and I’m still very new to it, but … More Good Leadership Means Knowing When Not to Lead
Watching a young horse go off to its new home is a moment of mixed emotions for me. On one hand I’m hopeful, excited for a new partnership that is about to be formed and full of enthusiasm for a horse that I will have undoubtedly grown attached to during training. On the other hand, I can’t help but be plagued by doubts – worried that the horse might be destined for a less-than-perfect life, that the new owner will not live up to expectations, or that months later, the horse will be returned, having picked up a host of bad habits from an inexperienced rider.
Over the last few years, I’ve realised that a big part of preparing a young horse for their new life is not only teaching them to do things ‘right’, but preparing them for what could possibly go wrong.
… More How to Prepare a Young Horse for a ‘Bad’ Rider
Monty has long been quoted as saying that single-line lunging is one of the ‘worst pieces of horsemanship’ there is. What Monty is really saying is that incorrect lunging is detrimental to the horse, but what he is forgetting is that it is the hands that hold the lunge line that are to blame, not the act of lunging itself. Here’s why Monty Roberts is wrong about lunging.
… More Why Monty Roberts is Wrong About Lunging
Every time someone asks me ‘What age did you start riding?’ I feel my stomach flip. The thing is, I didn’t learn to ride until I was an adult. There, I said it. And now I find myself scrambling to explain, to make excuses for the fact that I wasn’t riding before I could walk, … More Learning to Ride as an Adult