Continuing education: how do you continue to learn about horses?

Jack BrainardWhen I was a kid I loved to read anything to do with horses. We subscribed to an equine magazine but received most of our ‘training’ information from other people that we rode with. At one point my mom and I took lessons at a dressage barn but with limited success as our horses were so drastically different from the lesson horses we rode. There was no YouTube, no internet, and VHS videos were not even common. There were no clinics in my area until I was in high school.

Boy have things changed.

Now there are so many ways to access information now that difficulty might be more in deciding what you like rather than what is available. I’m sitting in the parking lot at the Kentucky Horse Park where the Road to the Horse just finished up. Horse Expos…another great place to learn. Aside from studying your horse, do you make an effort to gather outside information?  If I had to pick my top three ways to learn they would probably be:

1) riding my own horse with someone

2) a book

3) video

I had an awesome thing happen to me this weekend. I was telling Jack Brainard that I wanted to learn more about western dressage and he invited me to come ride with him. I warned him that I would show up if he was serious…and he said he was! I’m so excited.

What are your top three picks for ways to learn? How often do you seek out new information?


  1. Niki Wilde on March 30, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Stacy, I had the opportunity to ride with Jack a few years ago as loved it! Cowboy Dressage is a new sport that is so much fun as it is for EVERY horse and EVERY rider. Not just expensive warm bloods 🙂 I love it!! Cowboy dressage has opened up the world of Classical Dressage to me and I just recently had lessons with Sofia Valenca from Portugal, and LOVED them! Dressage can help improve every horse! (And rider 😉

  2. Mardell on March 30, 2015 at 11:41 am

    I LOVE the Horse Expos that come around now. So many great horse people who are willing to share their knowledge. I also LOVE how it’s training and partnership with your horse, not “breaking” now days. I’ve always treated my horses with love and respect and we are partners. There are all kinds of clinics out there now if you have an issue with a horse that needs attention – usually it’s the person, not the horse that’s the problem – in the lack of communication. . . So much wonderful information is out there now, no one has an excuse anymore for not learning, then applying what they learned.

  3. Roseann Tode on March 30, 2015 at 11:36 am

    SOOOOOOOOOO Jealous……. you better keep us blogged on what you learn from Jack…….. you lucky you know what……… 🙂

  4. belefevre on March 30, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Books, internet and staying as much as possible with my horses.

  5. Janette on March 30, 2015 at 10:53 am

    #1-watch, like I’ve never seen it before.
    #2-listen/read with an open mind.

    • Stacy on March 30, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Nice tips!

  6. horsegentler on March 30, 2015 at 10:45 am

    I live in a city far, far away from a good riding stable. Hence, my most common way to learn is reading. Second, I watch videos. But my absolute favourite is simply experimenting. I read, yes, and then I go and do, and if it doesn’t work, I tweak it until it does. So much fun!

  7. Tina Cormier on March 30, 2015 at 10:31 am

    So far, I learn best by watching videos (haven’t found that perfect trainer in person yet, which I think would be best). I have watched all of your videos on Jac (and most of your others), which is how I came to realize what a wealth of information there is out there. You are definitely right – the hard choice is finding GOOD information from people who share my same philosophies about horses and people. The most amazing feeling was taking something I learned from one of your videos with Jac and trying it on my horse. When it worked, I was nearly fell over (not because I doubted your ability, but mine!!!). It was the video where Jac turned out on the lunge line instead of toward you. I didn’t even realize that was a “thing.” So when one of my young horses did that, I followed your lead and corrected it, and she hasn’t done it since! Thank you for sharing your experiences – you really are reaching people and helping them! I also recently found Warwick Schiller’s videos and have learned from him as well!

  8. Annie Gass on March 30, 2015 at 3:24 am

    I read, watch videos, and, listen to my betters’ comments and conversation all the time. With respect to improving my own riding, it’s been extremely helpful to watch a demonstration of what my instructor is trying to get me to do. Often I find I can SEE where the weight goes, how the joints flex, and how the angles change, and how it all goes together, better than I can understand a description. This works really well for me in the ring; less so in a video where I am limited to the camera’s point of view, not to mention lighting and distance from the subject. Stacy, take note!

  9. Elinor on March 30, 2015 at 2:26 am

    I read posts from people struggling within my discipline.

    Plus information from riders in the upper levels.

    Also using tips from various current to level trainers and riders at the FEI level.

    Also, constantly challenging myself with more instruction, and watching other people ride.
    Striving for perfection.
    Which can never be had, as I do dressage 🙂

  10. Megan on March 30, 2015 at 12:29 am

    I think back to the times when I feel I learned the most or made big strides at getting better as a rider and trainer. I made the list then reread it and noticed it looks a little redundant in theme. Oh well. Whatever works right?
    So, my top three picks for learning methods:
    1. A lesson on my horse with a trainer
    2. Riding or watching at a clinic
    3. Following other trainers around, especially on my favorite Stacy Westfall blog. :-D.
    4. I have to add a fourth, and that is books. The right books with illustrations to help explain a movement are so nice to go back and reference. They become lifelong guides.

    As far as how often do I seek out new information, two times come to mind. One, when I’m out of ideas on what to do next with my horse or student and two, when I realize that something I’m doing isn’t working and I need a new perspective. I do ride alone a lot so it’s also nice to have eyes on the ground giving tips and improvements that could be made.

  11. Jo on March 29, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    I find that by riding different horses that suit different types of riding and different breeds e.g draft horses to brumbies has definitely allowed me to learn a whole lot more than any book, person or video can teach you about the “outside info” that you might not know or want learn more about e.g. Western dressage. I find that if you ride a horse that suits the western dressage style or has been trained in it actually teaches you more than words heard or read. However watching other people ride in the particular style you want to learn and reading books about it can be very beneficial as well.

  12. Dan Chambers on March 29, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Jack is really big into cowboy dressage (a little different than western dressage), along with Dian
    Eitan Beth-Halachmy Stacy. They put on great clinics at Whitesboro, Tx. I was fortunate enough to ride with them in October last year. Great clinic, and talk about two legends to learn from! Great to see you and Newt at RTTH this weekend along with the mounted shooters.

  13. ray on March 29, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    How do you bond with your horses i have had my horse for 6 years and i dont feel like ive had a bond with her

  14. Tammy Muncy Freeman on March 29, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    I worked and rode for a friend of Jack Brainard’s years ago, Ernie Vest. I learned a lot from both men and Mr Brainard is one that you can learn from just by listening to him. I was always a visual learner until I met him.

  15. earline hull on March 29, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I’m older and live where there are no trainers or clinitions. I subscribe to several magazines, buy books and videos. I’ve had clinics at my barn and have gone off to a few. I would love to have more clinics, but it’s hard to get people in my area to come. I have your videos that I bought at Road to the Horse years ago.

  16. Cher Golden Lago on March 29, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Hi, how are you doing?
    1. Stacey Westfall blog. Very helpful
    2. I read on a monthly basis:
    Horse & Rider
    AQHA Journal
    Equine Journal
    3. Sadly Western Clinics or Western Dressage Clinics are not readily held in New England. But I’m still hopeful.

  17. Lynn Foster on March 29, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    reading voraciously ALL the horse magazines I can get my hands on – watching voraciously all the on-line and TV (like HRTV) that I can get my hands on and taking lessons from a great and accomplished coach who teachs you to practice perfect and ride perfect and to observe your horse to communicate to you exactly when you are being perfect…..those are my three best ways to learn and get better…..

  18. Lisa on March 29, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    As a high school teacher, I understand the value of lifelong learning as it applies to my profession. As an adult beginning rider (I’ve been riding for about two years), I quickly learned that the pursuit of horse knowledge is an equally lifelong endeavor. (I once heard that to become an expert at something, you must spend at least 10,000 hours studying and practicing it). I learn best by watching and doing, so I take weekly one-hour lessons with my riding instructor and then practice what I’ve learned during my rides the rest of the week. I also watch LOTS of YouTube videos. I loved your series on Jac, Stacy, not because I’m training a horse myself (although most would agree that any time anyone works with horses they’re training — or UN-training!), but because you got me thinking about how horses communicate with us and “ask questions” when we work with them. That was a huge ah-ha moment for me! I am also an avid reader and subscribe to a horse-related magazine as well as participate in Internet forums and read lots of books on horse behavior and riding technique. I try to learn something new about horses every day; there is a LOT to learn. At this point, I’m just trying to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as I can while being discerning, weighing conflicting opinions and considering the expertise of the source.

  19. marla2008 on March 29, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Asking help from a coach has retrieved significant results in a very short amount of time for my horse and I. Then, I browse the net constantly for tips and insight from the horsepeople I admire and trust. I’d have to say you come at #1, I also love Warwick Schiller from Australia, and Patrick Hopgood in the UK (even though I think he’s a born Aussie, as well), or Daniel Dauphin, from Lousianna. And of course, I have a bunch of books/DVDs from Mark Rashid and Buck Brannaman. Mentors and role models are very important, in my view. But riding with my coach is great because he can give real, one on one advice, and could even hop on my horse, if needs be (even if he hasn’t yet, because I think he believes I need to put the work in, and eventually, I can reach my goals). I also love to have email conversations with various horse oriented friends. I think about my horse and our riding goals about 20 hours a day, so i guess one could deem it an obsession. But I feel it’s a good one. I would totally adore to attend your clinics and meet you, but being an ocean apart, it’ll need some time. But one never knows what the future holds 😉

  20. Martha King on March 29, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I learn best by working with a trainer on my own horse. I took one of your clinics, Stacy, when you lived in Mt. Gilead and learned so much with my horse. I still have my notes and refer to them in my ground work from time to time. Another way to learn for me is to go to other people’s barns and see how they practice barn/stable management. I volunteered for a while at a horse sanctuary and every single day I picked up something new and different regarding a horse or the barn management practices. Lastly, I learn by going to seminars etc., such as the Equine Affair which is coming up soon.

  21. Loretta Fern King on March 29, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    what exactly is western dressage ? how is it different from reining ? ?

Leave a Comment




100% Private - 0% Spam

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

No one taught you the skills you need to work through these things.

Riders often encounter self-doubt, fear, anxiety, frustration, and other challenging emotions at the barn. The emotions coursing through your body can add clarity, or can make your cues indistinguishable for your horse.

Learning these skills and begin communicating clearly with your horse.

Click here to learn more.



Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.