Episode 192- Forward is a DIRECTION, not a speed.

Forward is a direction, not a speed.
Why is this an important statement?
As I coach riders, I often see horses who look wobbly on straight lines. Some even appear to be walking a tight rope. What causes this?
I see this as a question in the horse’s mind that is being expressed in their body.
It is possible that making a simple change to viewing ‘forward’ as a direction that you guide your horse will greatly improve your communication AND relationship with your horse.


Episode 192- Forward is a direction, not a speed..mp3
Stacy Westfall: [00:00:00] Maybe consider that not only is giving them the direction of forward more clear, but maybe it’s even more kind if you clearly guide them in the direction you want to go, because forward is a direction.

Announcer: [00:00:24] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Westfall: [00:00:44] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I help riders become confident, communicate clearly, and get better results with their horses. In this season of the podcast, I’ve been sharing with you some of the concepts that I teach to my students inside my programs. Today on the podcast, I’m sharing information from directly inside of my riding course. I taught this Zoom call live and you’ll hear me referring to video examples while I’m talking. But don’t worry, I double-checked and I talked through the examples in a way that even as audio-only you’ll be able to follow along. Plus, if you are listening and you do want to see the video examples, I made this recording also available as a free preview. The reason I’m so passionate about this subject and really want to share it is because I realize that people are often confused with the true meaning of forward motion. And there are times that as an instructor I will call it straightness. But I think it is really important for you to understand that forward is a direction. Just like backwards is a direction, left is a direction, right is a direction, forward is a direction. And I want you to listen to how I taught it on this call, and then I’m going to come back and say a little bit more about it at the end. Let’s listen.

Stacy Westfall: [00:02:17] I have so much stuff to cover. I’m really glad that there’s another Zoom tomorrow because looking at my own notes, I’m having one of those days where it’s a little bit maybe like when you go to work with your horse and you have this huge, massive list and you’re like, That might be more than I can actually do today, but I’m going to go out there and I’m going to believe that I’m going to get through exactly the amount that I need to today. So that’s what I’m going to do. So now that I’ve checked to see if you can see me and hear me, I’m going to kind of launch into some teaching because I’m very excited about some of the ways that my brein is thinking about presenting this information to you guys. And so I’m going to dive in and teach. I’ve got videos pulled up of students. I’m going to have moments where I stop and double-check because there is so much information that I want to get. I want to make sure you guys are asking questions to make me clarify it. So just like if you’re treining your horse and you start watching the videos and you start going, Oh, I noticed right there my horse was doing that. That’s a question. Like sometimes you guys might think it’s just frustrating, but I’m telling you, when your horse keeps going around cone number three and doing the same thing, like cutting in on cone number three and diving way out, like making a really big turn around cone number one, it’s information. Well, your job on the Zoom calls is to type that in. So, if you type in your questions, then that would be really helpful.

Stacy Westfall: [00:03:53] So I like this success story that was sent in from Sheila, so I’m going to read it because partway through my notes I actually have written in here, you may be experiencing overwhelm. If you are, you need to go back to the basics because when I keep presenting you guys with more layers and more information and yes, it’s the same because we’re talking about the same patterns and the same techniques, but I’m showing you different angles to look at it. One of the things you could choose is overwhelm. You could choose, it’s just too much information. There’s just so much I’m never going to figure it out. There can be all kinds of thoughts like that. Or you can look for one golden nugget, one thing that I say that strikes you in a certain way that you’re like, That’s the one. That’s literally how I take riding lessons. If I can get one nugget out of a riding lesson, perfect. If I get two or three, it’s like, Whew, I’m way over the top. So when you guys are watching today and participating today or watching the replay, one golden nugget. And then go use that and over and over again. So, listen to this success story that Sheila sent in.

Stacy Westfall: [00:05:06] You touched on the idea of consistency on today’s Zoom call, and it made me think of a huge success I’ve had using this powerful but underappreciated tool. A while ago, you mentioned that we could start to see and feel improvements in our horses and in ourselves if we were willing to increase the time we spend just trotting and just loping. My first thought was, I already do this, haha. However, when it actually timed myself and trotted for a full 5 minutes, followed by loping for a full 5 minutes, I realized I have not been working my horses or myself nearly enough. We can now do this for a full 10 minutes in each gait. It doesn’t seem like it, but that’s a lot of trotting and loping. And now I understand why you run. I think I’m in good shape, but adding this to my routine proves to me I can be much stronger. The dividends from this simple piece of advice are tremendous. My horses have all gotten stronger and appear even more muscular. I have gotten stronger and feel more coordinated. My horses feel so much more balanced in these gaits, but also in all of the exercises that we do. We are all much more relaxed. All of the gaits have more rhythm and cadence. It has made the horses much more confident in the way they move. Repetition is so valuable. My previous thoughts were that I needed to keep my practice session full of new exercises and challenges. I have since learned that what the horse needs for us is to be sure. It is easier to be sure when things are kept simple and done with consistency. This is such a simple exercise, but I’ve experienced profound changes since including this in our routine. Stacy, once again, thanks so much for being a great teacher and helping us understand the why in everything we do.

Stacy Westfall: [00:07:07] If you walk away with nothing else, 5 minutes in, take what Sheila took from one of the calls and just implement that. Because a lot of times when you go out there and you try to get really creative and you try to overthink, not only will you be like potentially zigzagging through all the different things and throwing a lot at your horse and being inconsistent, a lot of times what’s going to happen is you’re thinking in a very frantic way and that thinking shows up in the way that you ride. Like I said, I could start this call thinking about all the stuff that I want to present to you all month long or even for the rest of the year and everything I know and how I can get it all into the next 48 minutes. But that’s not going to be the most beneficial for everyone. The most beneficial is going to be as I bite off these chunks and you can take one thing away and you can always come back and listen to the call and get yet another thing. Because I’m going to present a lot of different layers, but I promise you, they all play together and if nothing else, go out there and repeat and repeat and repeat because you will find stuff when you’re not looking so hard for it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:08:24] OK. I wanted to start this month off by talking about riding straight lines and riding circles. Because as I watch a lot of video from students, I’m starting to notice that maybe there’s another place I can teach this a little bit differently and help you guys see why I laid the courses out in the order I did. So there–if you’ve–if you’ve breezed through and there’s–there’s a lot of information there, again, lots of little nuggets. But if you look at the steering course–so let’s just talk about the steering course and the collection course. Although the stopping, whoa course fits in there too. But the steering course, if you look at that, it has lots of circles. So, we’ve got perfect circles, wandering circles in the four-leaf clover pattern. If you look at that course alone, there are literally no straight lines in that course. Now you jump over to the collection course. In the collection course. The first thing that you start doing is using the wall as a–as a way to reference the majority of the exercises. Even when they get moved away from the wall I teach 90% of the exercises in there, I teach you a version of it along the wall, which means they very much include straight lines. In fact, there’s something in there called, Walk the Line. And all of these other–like if you guys have looked and you looked at stage one, stage two, and stage three today in this call, you’re going to get another–another layer, another hint, another angle at how stage one, two, and three are very related to Walk the Line.

Stacy Westfall: [00:10:12] So, I got thinking about it because one of the themes I’m going to start talking about more and more is really paying attention to not pushing your horse left and right while you’re going around turns. And since the steering course contains so many turns, it’s a place where I see people making this one repeated mistake over and over again. And just for clarity, I want to make sure it’s very clearly in your head. So I’m going to draw on the screen for a minute. So this super common thing that I see and I’m going to draw the four-leaf clover pattern just for fun. So and then–And then we could even possibly zoom in and look at just one of these leaves. But what happens is you start writing this four-leaf clover pattern over and over again, and what starts to happen is you go in with this idea that you’re going to go around this and that you’re going to be a certain distance on the way into the cone, a certain distance on the way behind the cone, a certain distance on the way out. And you’re trying to kind of keep that even. And then you ride this about, I don’t know, it depends on your horse and you. You ride it ten times, you ride it ten days, you ride it three weeks. So somewhere along the way, one or both of you begin to create this scenario. You begin to create the scenario where instead of there being this much space on the way in, there’s a lot of times that the horse starts to go, Hey, get an idea. I see that we’re going to the right. So, we’re going to the right and we’re going to come around here. I see this cone. We’re going to go to the right. Let me help you out here. There’s the horse– the horse or you–keep in mind it could be you. Instead of traveling on this line, maybe the horse helps you out and takes this line. Or maybe you’re looking really far ahead. Whatever reason. Beautiful thought here, grab this one and run with it. It doesn’t matter why you ended up here. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. It’s not–doesn’t matter if it’s your fault or the horse’s fault, and here’s why it doesn’t matter. You will be in charge of fixing it either way. You will be in charge of changing that moment where this is what–to me, sometimes people will call it dropping in, sometimes they’ll call it falling in with the shoulder, sometimes they’ll call it all kinds of different things. I’m just like, something pre-planned, some problem happened back here. And so yes, we can look at a video and we can definitively say that you were sitting perfectly correct and so the horse fell in. Doesn’t matter, because actually, you weren’t sitting perfectly correct because when the horse started to fall in back here, you needed to actually change something. You’re not just a frozen mannequin up there striking a pose, and then the horse follows along. So, when the horse started to give signals that it was going to cut in because it’s seen the pattern 138 times and now it knows we’re probably turning right, since this is all we ever do and we’re going to the right. So, it doesn’t really matter whether it was caused from the horse having that thought or whether we look at the video and we can see that you were super excited, so you were looking way around and so you were actually leaning in. We’re still going to say that you needed to recognize that you were leaving the trail way back here. When this is not as obvious, when you’re right in the middle of it, like I’m saying all these words and it probably sounds kind of obvious. But it doesn’t feel at all obvious because so much of the time what happens is you come around here and you get right to this, like, critical spot. P.S. eventually they’re going to all be critical spots. But you get to this spot and you start to remember that–actually, let’s go back even further. You might ride this pattern five times in one day. And you ride it in on the fifth time you start to go, I don’t know what happened the first two, but the last three times– three, number three, you rode it two, you’re now up to five. So, the last three times that you went through it, you actually notice that you were nearly running the cone over. That’s probably how it’s going to happen for you. You won’t even be aware that that was a thing because you were just trying to remember where to go. And then maybe in the ride, or maybe when you’re watching the video, you start to realize that you were constantly running cone number three over. What so many times is happening is that you guys start to realize it, but you’re kind of realizing it when you’re right in this area. When you’re in this area, you realize that you actually deviated from the path you wanted to be on.

Stacy Westfall: [00:15:15] So here’s the path you wanted to be on to make this turn and keep it nice and even. But you don’t realize that you’re not going to hit this imaginary marker behind this cone. You don’t realize that you’ve lost the pocket till you’re right in here. And what I’m seeing consistently on videos is that when you guys get to right here, you’re doing what I’m going to just label a leg yield. You’re leg yielding the horse out. So you’re pushing the horse out. So, keep in mind, we’re going to the right here. You’re pushing the horse out with the right leg. Which is going to cause this kind of motion with the horse’s legs. It’s going to make the horse kind of cross over and the horse is going to do this. And then as soon as you let’s just say it works, it “works.” And so you now went from this track and you push the horse out and now you end up on this track and you go up here. But you probably when you’re pushing it, it probably took you from here to here. And so you’re pushing that horse out and you get on the track and you take like two steps of straightness-ish, and then you’re immediately going back in, to the right. So essentially you came around here. And what I want the horse thinking in the four-leaf cover pattern, I want the horse thinking forward, forward. Right, right, forward, forward, right, forward, right, forward, forward, right. Some combination of that. And what you’ll have done here is you’ll have done forward, forward, right, right, right. And then you came around here at some point, you ended up too far to the right and then you added left, left, left, left. And then immediately you went from left to guess what? Right. So, you went from left and then right. And let’s just imagine this starts happening multiple places in this. So, you come around here and you’re like, whew! Survived cone number three. Forward, forward, forward, forward. Right, right, right. Oops. Left, left, left, forward. Right, right. If you do this 50 times, 100 times. Right and left will start to get really mixed up for your horse. Which is one of the reasons why you’ll hear me say, and I’m going to teach more and more directly on it, that I really want you thinking about where you wanted to be and if the horse cut in, fell in, dropped in, you cut in, fell in, dropped in. I want you to admit it happened. And you’ve got to fix it the next path through. The way you’ve heard me teach this on the podcast or in other Zoom calls has been when I’ve said you’re driving a semi-truck. You’re driving a truck and trailer; you’re driving your horse trailer. At the horse trailer, you’re driving the horse trailer, this is now a gas pump. Any of you ever been in the situation where you were maybe learning to drive and this was the gas pump and you were taking your truck and trailer around and you realized right when you got to here that this gas pump, you were going to take it out if you try to continue this turn? And you can’t side pass your truck to the left. Well, ok, most of us can’t, so we’re just going to go with that. That’s not usually an option. So what we do is in the truck and trailer, we back up and start a new line. I’m saying to you, just admit you didn’t ride that line well and go to the next one and ride with more forward motion. Ride with forward as a direction. Ride with that type of intent where when you come around here and you now know that you came around a whole bunch of these passes and this horse and you, somebody, one of the two of you kept dropping in here, what I want you to think about is that this problem happened sooner than you recognized it. So, start questioning yourself further back. Start questioning yourself at minimum, right around here. And start realizing that for the horse to be able to make this little turn here actually meant that there was a loss of forward as a direction, not a speed, a direction.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:53] And the reason I’m so passionately absorbed in this thought right now is because when we really can get this horse to, like, step forward like this, what we’re actually working on, if you do the exercises, then steering course like this, is that you’re actually working on engagement. You’re actually working on a horse coming from behind. And if you start pushing the horse left and right, you’re actually adding lateral movements. And so that’s why I labeled it, instead of labeling it right or wrong, I labeled it a leg yield. So, you’re leg yielding out, turning in, leg yielding out, turning in, leg yielding out, turning in. You’re going to cause a few problems that you might not see coming. When you leg yield out, if we were teaching it as a leg yield, you’d go into this into the collection course and you’d start to see all the straight-line stuff doesn’t have a lot of diving the other direction after it. There would be actually like leg yield forward, leg yield, forward, leg yield forward, leg yield forward because that would leave–the leg yield robs you of some forward motion. That’s one of the hardest things about doing any kind of lateral movement is that sometimes the horses will be like, ooh, lateral. Lateral is even easier than forward because lateral and forward, now that’s some work. So they’ll either go forward or lateral. So, the ones that really latch on to lateral actually lose some of their forward. Now, the ones that are very forward, a lot of times we can use lateral because it’ll actually rob them of the forward motion. The one thing you need to do is recognize that the lateral is going to one, it takes away some of your forward motion. Number two is the sequence that’s actually going to hurt you first before you worry too much about the lateral is the sequence of moving the horse out and then diving the horse back in. Because what’ll happen is it’ll feel like at first you’re moving the horse out and then steering it in. It’ll feel all flowy until your horse rewinds, you know, let’s say it took you ten rides before you started really feeling the horse legitimately saying like, we’re going to go around that cone. I know we’re going to go around that cone. So, they started asking questions about it, which is actually a perfect treining opportunity to trein, We’re going to go around the cone, forward, forward, forward and turn a little and forward and turn a little and forward. And then you’re working on the engagement and the steering. But when you start sequencing out and then back in, you’ll literally start to hardwire that as one. That will become one. You’re not thinking it’s going to become one, but your horse is going to start to think it’s going to become one. And this is actually what makes riding, when you get into the steering course and you start looking, when you start looking at riding zigzags, you’ll also notice in that steering course that I actually I’m like, I want you to do like zig straight, zig straight, zig straight, zig straight and then zag straight, zag straight. Because zig-zag, you want to go do, if you want to go do eight of those in a row what you actually really need to be able to be able to go zig-zag, zig-zag, zig-zag, zig-zag. The secret to being able to conquer that move is that any moment you ask, your horse should be able to answer yes, forward. Lateral forward, lateral forward. So in the zig-zag it is forward, lateral, forward even though you’re not seeing in the zig and zag if you go ahead and watch, even watching like Olympic level horses riding actual zigzags that they have in the pattern, you’re going to see they’re lateral, lateral, lateral, forward, which is where they do their lead change. Lateral, lateral, lateral, and inside their lateral there is forward in their lateral.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:53] Remember at the beginning of this call when I said, Don’t let overwhelm hit you. Enjoy the ride of your brain. Don’t start asking the questions on how in the world are you going to train all of this. Enjoy the experience of wow. Horses are freaking amazing. This is amazing. How? Because I’m always amazed. I’m always amazed that I can even train this. And then my horse knows it better than I do. A whole nother lecture. So, what we’re training for is we’re actually looking for a lot of engagement from the horse. We want to be able to trigger forward at any moment. So, this actually becomes a pre-planning thing for you guys. So basically when you don’t establish this really good forward, you’re going to develop a wobble. And I’ve got some videos that I want to show you that of like where this goes and I’ll explain what you’re actually seeing in the video because I think it’s super cool. And then I’m going to check the Q&A and really pull you guys in to see if I need to clarify anything else. So I’m going to share the screen and show you guys how this looks when the horse is asking the question. I want you to see it as a question in the horse’s body. So what you’re going to see here, and I might rewind it and play it a few times, but there’s a–watch the top of the screen opposite of the cone up here. So this horse is going to walk on and I want you to see the leg. So I want you to see the front legs. So I want you to see the front legs and I want you to see what’s happening with those front legs. This horse is doing haunches in, but I don’t want you to even care at all about the haunches in. I want you to care about the essence of the horse understanding clearly where to place the front legs. Because all of this, like this clear forward motion, it feels less important, less clear when you’re riding the four-leaf clover pattern. But when you start to see where you’re going with it, all of a sudden you’re like, Oh, wait a minute, I can see where that’s going to be a problem. It’s a little bit like when you’re driving your car and there’s this little tiny wobble and you–maybe you didn’t even notice it, but somebody else gets in your car and you drive 35 miles an hour and somebody’s like, Hey, do you notice that wobbling? And you’re like, No, not really. And then two days later, you get in the car and you drive 70 miles an hour and you’re like, I have a serious problem. That’s a little bit how the steering stuff works. So watch this question that the horse is asking. Just the front legs. So the horse is like, do I go straight with that one? Sideways? Overlap? Do I go this way? Do I go that way? Do you see? I want you to see the unsteadiness of the front legs there. I want you to view the unsteadiness of the front legs as questions. So that horse asks a lot of questions. If you went back and even like when we were talking about evaluating videos, in this one moment, even if we just watch the left front, it goes forward and then it goes to the left and then it goes really to the right or forward and then it goes to the left and then it goes forward. So just the left front is doing that.

Stacy Westfall: [00:26:53] Now, this is a different clip. Again, watch the forward legs. We actually saw right at the beginning, I’m going to rewind it. We see the horse is kind of like going one direction and then it kind of staggers sideways. And then we actually see this horse does have the ability to travel with these legs straight. This is not a conformational default. This is not a–I call it–I call it rope-walking and I’m going to show you an example with Willow in just a second. But I call it like tightrope walking. So we can actually see in this split moment we actually saw just a minute ago–Let me go back to it. We can actually see this horse’s capable of straight, straight, straight. And then the question happens again. That left front goes, ooh, maybe I’m supposed to be to the right. Oh, no, I’m supposed to go straight. Oh, nope, I’m supposed to go. So I want you to see that those wobbles in the front end are questions about the direction. Now, I’m going to show you this with Willow, and I was recording this to explain something. And then while I was watching the video back, I’m like, Oh, it’s so perfect. Because what happened is I actually came in out of habit in the correct angle. And then I realized that I needed to show the incorrect angle. So let’s look at Willow’s–Willow’s experience here of me was this. Oh, Stacy’s got this approach. I know this approach. We’re going up to the wall. This is where we’re going to have our shoulders even and I can feel she’s asking me to move the hip and she starts to get nice and even because that’s what our default has been. Switch back to me. Stacy thinks, Oh, no, for this video, for this student, I need to actually do this different. So I change Willow. When I change Willow, Willow goes, Whoa, okay, okay, here we go. And so you can see this in her legs. And I change her, and then I go to change her back, and I want you to see the tightrope walking that happens because basically, the way that I just rode my horse for the demonstration caused a lot of questions. So right here, this is where we’re still in the approach where Willow’s like, totally knows what’s coming, because I feel very even and congruent. Now I start in and I start in pretty even, and then I change and I pull her head out here and it changes the effect on her legs. And then I bring her back and we actually see, did you see that tightrope walking? Did you see where? There it is. You can really see it. Those are the questions. Those are the wobbles I caused in my horse by pulling her out of frame and then back in. And then–and then even when I got good, even when I got correct the reverberation of the wobble from having done that showed up as tightrope walking. Let’s go back one more time because I want to make sure it’s really clear before I go check the questions. So again, I actually caused the tightrope walking and I love it because I wasn’t trying to cause it. So right here, she’s steady. Then I make a sudden change. That’s what I’m calling a sudden change, folks. And then I start to bring her back and I’ve already disrupted. And she crosses over, she crosses out, she crosses over, she crosses out, she crosses over, she almost crosses out. And then she starts to get steadier. She starts to get steadier. And then I believe that I left right after this, an actual example of the steadiness, just so that you guys can be clear. So watch her front legs in this one. A lot steadier. We actually see–a much steadier. It’s actually to me, I know it’s not as good as it can be, but those front legs only, if you watch just the front legs, the front legs are much steadier. When I started wobbling her around and I caused all the questions in her head, it reflected as questions in her body, and it reflected as wobbles versus what you are seeing when she is coming down the wall and the front legs are nice and even, even while I move other body parts around. What you are seeing is forward as a direction, not forward as a speed. Everybody tattoo that on an arm. The ballpoint pen. Forward as a direction, not a speed. So she was stepping clearly forward. It was independent of whether it was a speed. So, when my horses are getting really solid is when they’re very committed to forward, which is why we go back to the four-leaf-clover idea and we think, Oh, this is why Stacy sounds obsessed with telling us to think forward, forward, right, right, forward, right, forward, right, right, forward, right, forward, forward, forward, right. Notice I never said left because that’s where we start getting that wobble. And that wobble is a lack of forward direction. It’s not something you can cause–it–You can–You can add speed. Speed doesn’t always fix it. Sometimes speed will just reveal more wobbles like it does with your car. So forward as a marching forward direction.

Stacy Westfall: [00:32:24] Now is where I’m going to stop and check the Q&A, because I’ve actually covered a significant amount of information. I so needed this conversation today. I needed something to help consistency and avoid the leg yield difficulty. When riding with more forward motion, the drop-in gets faster too. Yes, exactly! Because if the horse is like, got it, here’s what we’re doing, we’re going and then we zig left and then we zig right, we zig left and then we zig right. They zig harder. They zig faster. Ask any barrel racer with bruised shins. OK. When it happens with inside rein only should I revert to balanced reins? Aha, well, I’m going to go two different directions with the answer to that question and I’ve actually got some video that I’m going to pull up next of a horse and rider who’s just now trying some of these different exercises. And the answer is the technique of whether you’re doing active inside rein or balanced rein, active outside rein. The technique is actually less important than that essence of forward, essence of forward, essence of forward. Number one would be the essence of not the pushing out and then the pushing back in. It’s truly as simple and incredibly infuriating the 100th time that you ride the pattern and you realize that you got to here and you started leg yielding out on accident. Like, you’ve got to remember that for you to change your muscle memory habit, you’re going to have to become aware of it probably after it happened, then during when it happened, and then before it happened. And the after it happened, for me, a lot of times the after it happened, like you finally get a glimpse of it and then being aware of during it is actually in phases too, because during it might be here versus here versus here versus here. So you’ve got to have a lot of compassion on yourself and literally just think when you go to this ride, the only two options I have are forward and right or forward and left. And I am not kidding you. I did a live event. You guys are going to start hearing a little bit more about where a bunch of my advance at home students came here. And there was a moment when I was coaching one of them, and I realized after the fact that I kind of wish I’d had video of it because the way I was coaching her was exactly what it sounds like in my own head. In my own head. I’m not sure what you guys are doing when you’re talking to yourselves on this pattern. What I want to know is I want to know, how are you talking to yourself? And I don’t mean good or bad. It should be so clear there’s not even room for good or bad. So to me it’s exactly what I’ve been saying. It is like I’m going to go forward, forward, right, right, forward, forward, right, right, forward, forward, right, forward, right, forward, right, forward, right, right, forward, forward, forward, right, forward, right, forward, forward, forward, forward, right, forward, forward, right, right, forward, right, forward, right, forward, right, forward, right, forward. This is how it sounds in my head while I’m riding it. And then what will happen is, believe it or not, you will not have to be aware of the problems. Your brein will happily point out even while you are talking like that. Your brein will happily point out that you nearly hit this cone. It will not be something you have to think, was I near that? Promise you. Go ride it. Set a timer and just ride it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:36:26] And so this is the way that you can start breaking the habit is you’re going to actually say to yourself, you’re going to only allow yourself forward and then right or left. Obviously, if you’re going left, switch that all out to left. What that will do is it will make you so much more present in the part before you actually have that urge to push them out. And if you arrive at the cone, then the next time around when you’re coming around and you think forward, then you’ll be like, forward. Like when I, if I, if I’ve nearly cut off that cone or almost run it over like four or five times, what you’ll start to do naturally just from having this running idea in your brain is you will naturally start to come around the cone before. And when you go forward, like you’ll be like, forward! Like you’re looking, you’ll start looking forward, leaning forward. You’ll everything in your body will be like trying to will you to go forward because everything that used to push the horse out is going to be screaming in your body, but you’re going to be saying forward. And that will actually create you like legitimately riding forward for a split second. And yeah, you’re going to practice this a lot before it gets clear in your body. And it won’t matter whether you’re doing active inside rein, active outside rein, or balanced reins. Here’s why it feels like active outside rein or balanced reins would be easier–And if it feels easier for you, here’s another mind-boggling thing, guys. Let some of these things be easy. If you can find it, because you’ve got a history of a horse you’ve been riding for two years, three years, five years. And you think it would be easier to find that answer by using one of the techniques. Allow yourself that you don’t have to do it the hardest way. A lot of times the older horses, it’s so funny to me. I love, love, love this concept and it’ll make you crazy when you’re trying to understand it. I always ride active inside rein only on all my babies. And then once the horses really understand the other stuff, active inside rein only becomes the hardest way to do it. What? It’s literally easier in elementary school to do active inside rein only than it is later on like when you’ve got a college level horse and you go back to active inside rein only. It’s actually one of the secrets that made my horses like Roxy, all of the famous horses you’ve ever seen me produce, it’s because I used to take them all the way up and then I would make them come back. And it’s harder when you come back. But staying down and only doing active inside rein won’t take you to college. You’ll feel like you conquered it down here, but you won’t have conquered these. There’s literally magic and moving up through and back through, up through and back through. There’s magic and possibly insanity when you go back and you’re like, Wait a minute. They could do this better on a colt than I can on my advanced horse. Instead of getting frustrated, get curious, get like, that’s fascinating. Why? I can tell you why. Because the horse is being supersensitive to all the other things and you haven’t gotten clear in your body. When you ride active inside rein only on a very advanced horse and you release the outside rein and you have active inside rein only in you ask in the horse says, How about a spin? How about a canter pirouette? How about we leg yield to the left? How about we dive into the right? How about we? And you’re like, where are all these questions come from? When you ride with all the aids, it’s easier to flatten out some of those questions. So for sure, once people hit active outside rein and balanced reins, there’s so much about that–that feels easier than active inside rein. This is not a lecture to only do active inside rein. It is literally just–this is why active inside rein is harder when the horse gets more advanced because you are actually leaving doors open. Can you see that? Like you’re leaving doors open, which means you have to be able to guide and–and those doors that were open when they were in elementary school, the horse didn’t recognize. College-level horse? It smells doors that are open. It’s like, sensing doors, sensing doors. Let me ask all these questions. Then when you answer all those questions, you get the next level up of understanding for both of you. But it’ll make you a little bit like, whoa! So move through them and let an exercise be easy by going to a different technique, if that’s where you find your way in. And then get curious about, Oh, interesting. What else?

Stacy Westfall: [00:41:06] Yay! I’m glad you’re enjoying it, Amber. And then this comment, I really like it and it’s why I actually put the clip of the one horse walking straight. This says, this is what my mare does most of the way on a straight line. She does look like she’s walking on a tight rope, actually crosses over. I was wondering if it was a conformation thing. Absolutely, the clearest way that you can 100% tell if it’s a confirmation thing. Set your camera on the ground in a place where you can lead the horse in hand like you were going to lead it for the farrier back and forth. And you literally go 50 feet out and you walk straight towards the camera. And you do that, I’m not kidding you, eight or ten times in a row. Because you’re–you and your horse may not know how to walk a straight line when leading. Don’t assume that works. And you lead towards the camera and you lead towards the camera and you lead towards the camera and you lead towards the camera. Yes, they all have different footfalls of the way they do it. I have never seen–they wing. A lot of them will, like if a horse toes in, they’ll wing out. If a horse toes out, they’ll wing in and the toeing out is more common in the horse world. So it’s actually common to see horses that wing. What we’re actually interested in is where they’re landing and most of them will actually still land the way that they stand. So if they stand like this, maybe they land like this, but if they are built like Presto, kind of narrow, then they’re going to–but they’re still going to go straight. They’re not built like this. So I highly doubt that this is–that’s how many questions your horse has about a straight line. When a horse walks a straight line like this, that’s because they’re going left, right, left, right, left, right. Here is a total mind-blowing fact that you may not have discovered yet. When you are working on the spiral out and you’re leading that horse and you’re just gently guiding that horse on the four-leaf clover pattern. Someday when you’re riding the walk the line exercise and the way that I show it, you’ll even see that I’m like, walking the line. And then I show you how to, like, bend and prepare to ride the corner and go into the corner and around. You’re going to see a moment where it’s like that spiral out and that spiral out, and that ability to go around the corner is shoulder in. And shoulder in is the next step up of where we’re going with the horses when you’re progressing up through like in something like dressage. So it’s there and I, I really, I totally knew when I was building the course that I hid a lot of these things. Like if I tell you all this, I knew if I just tell you to engage the forward and turn, engage the forward and turn, I know the side effects. But I don’t want you in overwhelm. I want you literally knowing exactly what Sheila said at the beginning of the call. If you do nothing else but go out and learn how to ride like one of these patterns five, 10 minutes straight, you will accidentally stumble onto it. That’s why these patterns are freaking amazing. OK. Another profound thing, mind-blowing. I just realized I always ride–Ride the right bigger than the left. How many times have I ridden and I didn’t notice it? The emoji is funny, but it’s got to be like, I notice it now! I’m winning! That’s literally how you have to keep going with all of it. OK. So helpful to think of the way you talk yourself through the pattern. Yes, I needed to hear you say forward is a direction, not a speed. Forward as a direction. Boom. Yes, exactly! Going back to active inside rein is hard. It’s torture.

Stacy Westfall: [00:44:39] Okay, let’s look at some horses. And I actually have, I videoed some stuff in the barn yesterday to be able to bring to the Q&A call tomorrow. So I’m super excited about that one, as if I’m not excited about this one already. But let’s pull up this video. So when I watch this video, I see them going straight and I saw the legs were tracking kind of straight. And now I notice they’re going, they’re drifting to the right. And I actually ask myself, who is drifting to the right? And then I start to notice, like, if I’m evaluating, I start to notice, oh, wait, look, if I go back here, I actually see the rider open the right leg. So this rider was going straight and now did a slight leg yield to the right. They opened up the door and they pushed the horse to the right. Now they’re going straight and we can see straight. It’s kind of cool. Can you see how you can actually see straight because it actually looks like one set of legs instead of two? Now we notice that they come back to the left. If this is a ridden version of Walk the Line, then I want to know why they chose to push the horse left or right. If the rider were to say for sure I was trying to do Walk the Line and I started out on this line and then something in the rider decides that they’re not on the pattern. And they go to push the horse out. Anybody having a light bulb moment how this is exactly like what I just told you on the four-leaf clover pattern? So if this rider tells me that they’re trying to ride straight and then they go, Oh, well, I noticed. And so I pushed my horse over and then I let the horse go forward. And then I noticed and I pushed the horse over, I’m telling you the answer I want you to have is, I want you to be thinking forward, forward. And I actually want you to be thinking about steadying that horse and pushing forward. And when you feel the horse starting to lean one way or the other, I don’t want you pushing the horse the opposite way back. I want you thinking, when they’re starting to lean–Let’s pretend this horse was leaning to the left. So they came around the corner to the left. They’re going straight and they feel, let’s just pretend this rider was feeling the horse leaning to the left. So they pushed it to the right. And then the–what I imagine it feeling like is that they push it to the right and then they’re like, freewheeling! Hands off the steering wheel, which you guys are also envisioning as letting the horse go straight. I’m not letting them. I’m saying straight, straight, that you can replace that for forward, forward. A lot of times when you hear me say straight it’s a code word for forward nut since forward is often mistaken for a speed, not a direction, if I say straight, it’ll make you crazy when I say on the four-leaf-clover pattern, because you’re like, the whole thing’s a turn! How can you be talking about straight? But what I’m thinking is it’s like forward. So when you feel a wobbly line like this, a lot of times it isn’t because you’re not giving enough information about where they should be going. You should be going straight, straight, straight. You start to feel them lean left and you go straight, straight. And if they actually make it to the left, you actually didn’t get the answer to straight or forward. It didn’t happen. That’s why you ended up a different direction. If you find yourself riding a straight line on the horse and it feels really tippy and you’re super tempted to just squeeze the horse forward, squeeze the horse forward, squeeze the horse forward because I told you forward was a direction, the challenge you’ll start to have is that when the horses are super straight when horses are straight, they have a tendency to become stiff. So straightness and stiffness, that’s the challenge of being straight, is they tend to become stiff. The other challenge of being straight is they tend to fall onto their forehand. They’ll also fall into the idea that forward is a speed, not a direction. So you can do a lot of like forward and back, meaning like that means like transitions to the trot, to the walk, to the trot, to the walk. But if you are riding your horse and it feels like they might be tightrope walking and you find yourself riding really like this, you are now playing into it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:49:12] I’m going to end the audio from the Zoom call at this point, because you can probably hear that I started using a lot of expressions with my own body and I also moved into more visuals with more student videos, and I didn’t talk through it in a way that was as clear without the actual visual. And also because I covered pretty much everything I wanted to share already on this podcast. Forward is a direction, not a speed. Another way to think of it is the difference between marching forward or kind of ambling along a path. And here’s another thing to think about. If you are tempted when I say marching forward, if one of the first thoughts that kind of whispers in your brain is, I don’t want to march forward all the time, consider this. When you’re riding and your horse drifts to the left and you push the horse back to the right and then maybe they go a little bit too far to the right so you push them to the left, what you’re doing is you’re telling them wrong, nope, wrong nope, wrong, and kind of hoping they’ll find where you really want them to go. And let’s say that’s a straight line. Maybe consider that not only is giving them the direction of forward more clear, but maybe it’s even more kind if you clearly guide them in the direction you want to go because forward is a direction. If you would like to see the full call so you can see the video examples I have set this up as a free preview. So go over to my website, follow the links to the course, and look for the upcoming Zoom calls and recording tab that you’ll find there. Scroll down, you’ll see Forward Is a Direction and the July 9th date, which is when I taught it. And you can click and watch it right there. If you want any help applying the concepts that you’re hearing here on the podcast to your riding right now is an amazing time to join my riding course. It is the only course that I’m currently offering and I am teaching a live inside the group four times a month for the rest of the year. You also have lifetime access to the course and all of these Zoom recordings. You can ask questions and you can see videos of other students working on the same material. Visit my website to learn more. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:52:01] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

Do you want to take the concepts that you are learning on the podcast to a deeper level? Come join me: Click here to learn more.


  1. Jo Ann Osborne on July 24, 2022 at 11:22 am

    I can’t seem to locate the video. Help!

  2. Michelle Rager on July 21, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    I really needed this today…. As you were the cloverleaf pattern of how it should be ridden – forward forward, right right forward forward right right. It was Blatant I tend to do the leg yield and not realize how counter productive and it explains why instead of improving it was feeling more and more Chaotic. Thank you for your way of teaching. Really looking into purchasing the bundle

Leave a Comment

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.