Episode 4: Responsibility & Accountability

“People are often afraid to move from the dreaming phase to the learning phase, because they think they have to choose one or the other.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

In episode 3, I talked about the three stages that riders go through in their horsemanship journey. I also discussed a little bit about responsibility. In today’s part 2, I’m diving a little deeper into how I think responsibility and accountability fit into the three stages.

Subscribe and never miss an episode! (I listen in the barn and when I’m out driving)

Subscribe Free

Need help subscribing? Here are two video links that will walk you through subscribing to a podcast. I didn’t make the videos so be sure to search for Stacy Westfall after you download your podcast player!

How to Subscribe to a Podcast on an iPhone: https://youtu.be/9SD8z3VJua4

How to Subscribe to a Podcast Using Stitcher App for Android:https://youtu.be/FKxnFAmNEtE

“In the dreaming phase, the responsibility is always with the horse.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

Show Notes

[01:04] I send out a weekly email and get a lot of feedback. I received some helpful feedback when it comes to explaining responsibility.

[01:21] The dreaming phase is when people enter owning horses and they just expect it to work. I called this my Disney phase.

[01:40] The learning phase is nuts and bolts. It’s how things work.

[01:57] The balance face is when you can hold on to both ideas the dreaming and the learning. And move back and forth between the two.

[02:07] There is some resistance to responsibility in people who are unaware that they are afraid to give up the dreaming phase.

[02:21] Feedback from people who are afraid of being mean to their horses.

[03:39] You can have both phases at the same time.

[04:45] In the dreaming phase, the responsibility is always with the horse. People think things are magically going to work.

[05:07] When we move into the learning phase, the responsibility shifts over completely to the rider. The rider feels like they are 100% responsible for whatever happens.

[05:30] In the dreaming phase the horses have no accountability. They have us hoping, but if it doesn’t work it just doesn’t work.

[05:46] In the learning phase, we are responsible, but we’re not sure what that means as far as holding the horse accountable.

[06:41] Natural push back from a horse makes people reluctant to set a boundary. People worry if their horse will still like them.

[07:10] Think about whether it’s possible even in human relationships to have great accountability breed more trust.

[07:33] I know of a high school teacher who sets very high standards for their students. This teacher ended up being the most respected person there.

[07:48] Somewhere in the mix of responsibility and accountability, we breed this storm of respect.

[08:00] When you are working with your horse you are each 100% responsible.

[08:25] You will have to work out the consequences inside your relationship.

[08:58] Stand outside the pasture and watch and see how your horse reacts and what emotions they are going through.

[09:23] Horses that challenge lines are telling you something about who they are when you go to work with them.

[09:32] Stop and think about how you are interpreting the things that I am saying when I talk about the dreaming stage, the learning stage, and the balancing stage or when I bring up words like responsibility and accountability and respect. How do these words fit in with what you are experiencing with your horse?

“Watch a horse in the herd, and you will actually know a lot about the horse that you are going to work with.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

Links and Resources:

The 4 Square Model Stacy uses when approaching horse and rider challenges.

Subscribe Free


  1. Marci Wommack on December 22, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    I love this. The teacher deal is so true. My sons horse is the herd leader and my son had to become the overall leader. Now that he has done that his horse works so much better for him and just truly loves him. This horse had went from home to home to home. That will never happen again he is home.

  2. Jamie Brunmeier on December 22, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Love, love ,love that you always refer back to watching/ “reading” the horses in the pasture to see what he/she is really like. Your podcasts are a great reminder that natural horsemanship isn’t a granola, laid back Disney version of horsemanship, but a genuine “reading” of each horse and then know what type of leader that you need to be. Thank you & keep the podcasts coming!

  3. Frances Goodwin on December 22, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Even though I know this to be true I find myself being pushed around and not even realizing that its happening because it is natural for me to be timid and quiet. My husband reminds me all the time that I let this happen. I need let this be one of my goals this year

  4. Gail Davis on December 22, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    OK, so I’m not the only one who thinks my horse may not “like” me if I require him to be 100% accountable. Back in my teens and young adulthood, I thought I knew everything. That is, until the horse taught me what I did not know. Now here I am in my sixties and finally realize I’m not even close. Thanks for your podcasts.

  5. Martina Brown on December 22, 2018 at 12:55 am

    This requires some deep thinking. I have been riding all my life. When I was young, I trail rode with my dad at grandmas house. Push button pony–got on and he just followed the other horse. Not until I got older did I discover that there was so much I needed to learn. I bought Hildy and boy did I have some learning to do. For awhile I was only working on the nuts and bolts and eventually I started not having fun because I felt so much pressure and things were not working. I expected things to happen and they weren’t. When I discovered you, I now have a new perspective and outlook on working with my horse. I now enjoy reading my horses body language and learning to answer her questions and giving her answers. It is actually really fun!! When I was at your place this summer, I felt like I came home with a new horse. It was so much fun trying that new technique you showed me and perfecting it. I don’t know if you remembered but I hated loping to the left and when I went to my first show that fall I was loping to the left and it felt really great!! Even though I did not win, I had so much fun just knowing I was able to complete all the obstacles.

  6. Heidi on December 21, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    Another great podcast

  7. Ash on December 21, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    These are like podcast therapy for horse & rider! Which is actually quite awesome!👏
    Thank you. Genuinely thank you.
    I needed this.

  8. Karen on December 21, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    My dream is to win at barrels with my thoroughbred… the learning part is walking the pattern until he understands, progress to trot, etc.
    Many rides later will come the balance. What a happy day to look forward to! Thank you for all of the help toward our goals, God rewards good deeds.
    Keep it hoof side down!

    • Lynn Driscoll on December 21, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      Love your podcasts!
      It was actually life changing when my horse and I became 100% responsible for training each other. There was no more dreaming. My gelding was extremely pushy and putting me in danger. I became accountable for fixing this extreme behavior. I had to dig in deep to pull out the strongest determination. This gave me confidence and the will power to accomplish bringing this horse to my level and making him 100% responsible for his actions. Yes it was a lot of wet saddle blankets, tying him, and my favorite saying ” I am a tick…I’m not coming off!” Because of this wonderful horse, I am a confident person in my personal life and have used those skills of determination. He is a favorite horse!
      Thank you so much for teaching Stacy.

  9. Philomena on December 21, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    I jumped back and forth between dreaming and learning to understand that I can only do what I can do in the balance phase. We learn all the time.

  10. Angie Hempel on December 21, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Wow, these podcast have really got me thinking!!!! My horse does not always have to like me, but she does always have to respect me. (But she usually does both because after all, I am the bringer of treats and butt scratches!)

  11. Judy Shepherd on December 21, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Resistant to leaving the dreamer phase. Wow- you pegged me. I love the magic of horses.

  12. Kaitlyn on December 21, 2018 at 11:28 am

    the dreamer phase was something I was in for a while, and things just weren’t working out.Through a friend I started realizing, it’s not that I had to be mean, but setting standards is something that has to happen for us to get anywhere.sometimes I wonder if I set them too high, but she hasn’t failed me yet, and we are still learning!and working toward being in the balanced stage!<3

  13. Kay Moyers on December 21, 2018 at 11:20 am

    hey Stacy!! Im not afraid to hold my horse accountable, so Im not sure of good ways to do that! What do you do? What works best in certain situations? Some great tips and ideas on this subject would be a great podcast episode

  14. Milena from Poland on December 21, 2018 at 4:39 am

    horses have been my passion for many years … I had to deal with different horse characters … everyone else – but all the same … my patience, working with them has always been rewarded, whether sooner or later …. never I am not giving up … you have to remember that we are responsible for what we have tamed

  15. Terri Anderson on December 21, 2018 at 2:03 am

    This will keep me thinking for quite a while!! I have had my trainer tell me i was micro managing my horse and I need to let him make the mistake and then show him what I want. So that he can be responsible/accountable for his action. This was when we were struggling with perfecting our circles vs diving in and dropping shoulder……this podcast is helping me understand what she means…..

  16. Kay Moyers on December 20, 2018 at 11:59 pm

    Well, I guess I don’t want to ever stop dreaming OR learning! Does that mean i won’t ever get balanced? haha I hope not! I do hold myself accountable and can get some bad self esteem when I fail. I do sometimes though, fail to hold my horse accountable I do need to work on that.. He is a smart cookie and knows more about riding than I do. He use to do some showing when he was young, and he knows all the little cues and what they mean and I am still learning. (I am not showing him, I just want to know the cues) I do want to reach the point where I am confident and know that I know what I am doing and that my horse understands and he accepts that!

  17. Ron Andrews on December 20, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Hi Stacy,
    I’ve known of you for a couple years… I am a 66 yo retired professor who grew up on a WI dairy farm. My father grew up with working horses and was not a “fan” of horses. Even though my sister and I tried to “convince” my Dad to get us a horse, it didn’t work. No economic value on a working farm. I took some lessons a number of years ago and finally took the plunge almost three years ago and bought a 14 yo gelding who had been a ranch horse in Wyoming. I live in New Mexico. We are learning together and he is such a great horse. Your podcasts have really hit home for me! I am very comfortable with large animals and I have learned so much! Your phases and discussions on responsibility and accountability have been great! Thanks you for putting yourself out there and being so genuine in your intent. I am so looking forward to all the future podcasts. I hope someday you might come to NM!
    All the best!

  18. Hailey on December 20, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    I’ve been very passionate about horses for my whole life! When I got the first horse of my very own, Thunder, at two years old, I instantly fell in love with training and have wanted to chase after a career in training ever since. I feel now as though I need to listen better to the horse, rather than the “rules” of training that have been thrown around and changed by all types of trainers. After all, it’s the horse that’s being trained and gaining a relationship with. I’ve had a lot of negativity towards my goals, but I feel as though anything can be accomplished with hard work and persistence. Thank you, as I’ve learned many things and will continue to do so.

  19. Liz Visser on December 20, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    For both of us it is respect and patients and alwys working on this

  20. Alicia Anthony on December 20, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    This was a wonderful, thought-provoking episode. I love the idea that both horse and rider must be held 100% responsible for the elements within their control. I definitely haven’t given my horses that responsibility. It’s a freeing idea. Thank you.

  21. Melanie on December 20, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    I appreciated your idea of accountability being 100% rider and 100% horse. I think we as riders need to keep that balance in our mind when working with our horse. We can dream and learn the nuts and bolts of how to carry out what we want especially with advice from someone like you who has been and is there everyday working with horses.

  22. Darick Adams on December 20, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    This is a very tough subject for me because as someone who looks to get more and more into horse training, if something doesn’t work out or escalates, I look at myself for the first cause of the problem, and blame myself for the holes in my knowledge. Because of that, it’s nigh-impossible for me to determine when I should be holding the horse more accountable unless the horse is being blatantly disrespectful.

  23. Rebekah Rehm on December 20, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    Stacy, I love how thought provoking your podcast episodes are! Not only does what you share apply to our relationship with our horses but also our relationships with others. I loved your quote, “Do you think it’s possible in relationships to have great accountability breed more trust.” That got me thinking not only about my relationship with my horse, but relationships in general. I loved the example you gave of a “200%” relationship too. Of the horse giving 100% and you giving 100% and then working out the dynamics of what that means within you both giving 100% and being 100% responsible! Thank you!

  24. Hannah Reppert on December 20, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    I found this podcast really helpful. It was a good reminder for me that you and your horse are each 100% responsible, sometimes I take too much accountability for my horse. I love to watch them in the field because you really do learn a lot about them.

  25. Bandy Russell on December 20, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    The great thing about horses is that no matter how long you have had experience, there is always more to learn! Great information!

  26. Jodie on December 20, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    I have never made my horse accountable 😳 but I don’t know that I have made myself accountable either…. I’ve certainly made myself responsible for the outcomes with my horse but you’re right… it’s time to make my horse accountable 😊

  27. Katie Beth on December 20, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    I have never had trouble establishing boundaries that included my safety or the horse’s safety: for example I am firm that they need to respect my space, and load on the trailer in case I need to take them somewhere. But I have more trouble knowing how much to push when I’m working on something unnecessary, like a skill for showing. Then I begin to struggle to decide what’s fair. Thanks for all you’re sharing with us Stacy!

  28. Sue McWhorter on December 20, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Appreciated words of wisdom.

  29. Taylor K on December 20, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Those were great examples and really helped me think about the stage I am in and where I am in the stage. I believe I am in the beginning transition from dreaming to nuts and bolts. I feel like I still need a lot more learning but I hold myself accountable for the mistakes because I am not always 100% clear with what I am asking out of the horse.

  30. Anna Mills on December 20, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    This puts a hole new spin on training for me. I knew that horses should be able to do this or that but I never thought about it in this way. It makes it a lot easier to see what I want from my horse and what I need to give my horse. Thank you!!

  31. Elisa on December 20, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    I used to be more worried about the horse and asking too much of them. As I’m learning more I realize that the firmer I am, the more I draw the line in the sand, then I actually get to be LESS harsh. The horses learn and respond quicker. I still have a ways to go but this is a great journey.

  32. Annie on December 19, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Respect. My goal is to establish my dominance in this relationship before I earn the horses’ respect. Respect for my personal space. Respect for my ques. I want to be fair and recognize and reward the slightest try. In return for that respect, my horse will get reward and rest, his highest priority, ( next to food of course. ) I work for respect, he works for rest and reward 🙂

  33. John M Stackhouse on December 19, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    You’ve made me realize something very important that never really crystallized in my head before listening to your podcasts, and it’s this: Horses are hard wired to build invisible fences in their heads. All of the fences are built by them, starting soon after they’re born, I think. Being herd animals, they need these limits, boundaries, or ‘invisible’ fences, to make sense of their world and to get along in the herd. If you think about it, all horses are born wild. So, just like herd life in the wild, they need those limits, boundaries, and ‘invisible’ fences in their domestic life with you, in order to make sense of their environment, or ‘range’, and to thrive in ‘your’ herd with you as their leader. With your teaching us about balance, I think this balance is what our horses seek, too! Our responsibility…I think I’m understanding, is to add to their invisible fences and/or replace one of two that they built on their own, so that we can build a relationship of mutual respect with our horses, so we can enjoy being together in the domestic herd we actually built. Even if the herd is just you and one horse. Wow! You’re really good at teaching, Stacy! Thanks for these podcasts!

  34. Nancy Thiessen on December 19, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing more great content. You sure keep it short! Maybe that helps us retain what we hear and learn little bits at a time.
    I’m grateful for a trainer that reminds me what my horse is responsible for from time to time. I have a sensitive gelding that knows from my tone, with no increased volume that he was not doing his part.

  35. Alex on December 19, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    I must admit when I think of holding my horse accountable, I am intimidated. I’ve recently had my first injury which I know plays a role in this. How on earth do I hold this huge being accountable? It’s hard not to subconsciously want to just give everything to the horse, in gratitude for tolerating me messing with him on the ground and on his back. When he says no, my impulse is to say, that’s ok, thanks for everything you’ve given me, and back down.

  36. Vicki Conrad on December 19, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    I do think that a horse likes to be held accountable. What happens when a horse is held accountable…..the release of pressure. That is what is called negative reinforcement and it works great!!

  37. Marianne Duggan on December 19, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    My horse Jess and I have been together 10 years now. We have not always been partners. Listening to you, made me understand that in order to have a balanced relationship, my horse and I need to meet each other half way. Jess has taught me so much, when I started listening. Thank you for the podcast. I am looking forward to many more.

  38. Nicki on December 19, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve been in the Disney stage for quite awhile now! I’m gradually making my way out of the clouds though! Love your podcasts!

  39. lisa laroe on December 19, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    This is one that I know I will be re listening too…..your podcasts and knowledge I feel are going to be extremely valuable between myself and our young gelding

  40. Michaela Isak on December 19, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    So so so many times in the horse world we are harshly judged for sharing struggles, our “feelings” & questions. To have a safe place to come , get honest feedback to understand our problems & fears is great! Responsibility and accountability are tough words when you think about it! you really dig down and make us think about how we are with our horses. I am a confident rider but i am soft rider, My horse knows if i get a little harsh if he does something wrong to correct him, he listens better! but again i feel it was my responsibility to teach him the correct way to begin with, and also his responsibility to learn the right way. But i can’t always think like that because i know he’s a horse and he has off days just like we do!

  41. Elise on December 19, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    This is challenging my technology challenged brain to figure out podcasts! I am so excited to listen to this wonderful information. For me: I am accountable “to” my horse and I am responsible “for” my horse. The more knowledge I gain, the better I can be at my accountability and responsibility.

  42. Lacey Galey on December 19, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    This is so true, I hope my horse responsible for her bad actions but I as a leader let her make them and guide her to the right decision. I want her to understand that she has a choice. I’ve always had dreams to rescue horses but as of late I’ve had to set that aside so I can’t get enough knowledge and experience to actually retrain these rescues in a healthy positive way!

  43. Dawn Vines Seward on December 19, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Again , thank you for acknowledging our emotional needs as well as understanding how important they are in the bigger picture. And thank you to everyone else sharing thier struggles openly. So often in the horse world we are harshly judged for sharing struggles, our “feelings” & questions. To have a safe place to come , get honest feedback to understand our hangups & fears is such a breath of fresh air!!!
    One if my biggest struggles has been trying to find a place where my horses & I are excepted as we are & finding a place to start. That place was with me. Everyone else pointed to my horses. And I’ve had to be “protective” of my horses because I realized how misunderstood gaited breeds are. I admit I shutdown more after meeting so much opposition & confusion with gaited horses. Whim I’m madly in love with & long to help be understood, cherished. You didn’t skip a beat to except us as is & you took the challenge to understand any special attention needed for our gaited herd. And you’re walking me through the fear of riding non Gaited horses again (yes that’s a thing) . You are building my foundation for horses, Gaited , non Gaited , sometimes Gaited, mini’s… a horse is a horse. 😀 Our biggest challenge is for me to not over think *everything*. With you I trust the process so I can replace all my non-stop questions with action & process it safely. I’m not frozen in fear of doing it wrong. Although I have a ways to go, I am making progress. I actually feel 100% safe making a mistake with you because I know you’ll help me figure it out. So it’s a good place to make mistakes!
    Thank you Stacy for believing in us & our babies!! 🤗🤗🤗

  44. Jenny Wood-Outhwaite on December 19, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I am loving these podcasts! It’s like a Christmas present every day!! lol

  45. Tamra Williamson on December 19, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    I think to be respected from our horse we need to be like that teacher with high standards.

  46. Jamie on December 19, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    E.V.E.R.Y. relationship is 100/100 , never 50/50, except parent /child. If you are GIVING ( not taking/ demanding) 100 to your horse, you will get 100 back….if you require it. Set a standard and live up to it.

  47. Charlie on December 18, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    I have just got into the position at 66yrs of age where I am training my own horse, Your Pod cast has really opened my eyes to thinking how my horse reacts to me and me to him. It helps make clearer things I knew but never thought that much about. In the future I will be much more attentive to my horse’s reactions. Thank- you for all your information

    • Stacy Westfall on December 19, 2018 at 12:35 am

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad it is helping. I’m very excited to continue with the seasons and see how much more value I can bring to the table to help people understand, enjoy and successfully train their own horses! Thanks for listening to the podcast:)

  48. Denise McAnally on December 18, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    I am in the learning stage but I feel stuck. I feel like I will never actually achieve my goal of the level rider I want to be

  49. Claire Dupuis on December 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    I really don’t know if we can actually talk about horses “loving” people. I think I have a great relationship with my horse, because he (I think) sees me as his referent human, the one to guide him and keep him safe. Because has very high self preservation instincts, he will sometimes doubt that I’m keeping him safe enough (he will find some places or situations threatening, in which case he’ll become resistant) and want to do his own thing (I’m not going near that sponsor’s banner). I work at convincing him that I’m still in charge and that he is indeed safe, but it’s often a lengthy process. If he’s not concerned about his own safety he’s trying pretty hard to figure out what I want. I see a lot of horses that have either decided that humans are totally useless and should be disregarded, or, the opposite, that humans are so dangerous they must be blindly obeyed for fear of the consequences. The latter horses are pretty submissive and shutdown and don’t express themselves much. I have a real issue with the word respect in the “equine discussion’, because 95% of the time it’s being used to describe a horse’s “lack of”, by people who, themselves do not have any respect for the horse’s fundamental needs, and have not made the effort to learn much about horses’ natural behaviors. Pushy and undesirable behaviors from horses usually stem from a lack of either understanding or education in the horse, rather than a lack of “respect”.

    • Stacy Westfall on December 18, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      The first two are yours (and I agree). The last one is mine and is where the word ‘love’ begins to gain a toe-hold.
      1) Totally useless— disregard
      2) Dangerous———-avoid
      3) Fascinating———I want more of that

  50. Elaine Smith on December 18, 2018 at 11:55 am

    This was great! I need to think on what you said here for a while and see if I can determine where I am. Off the cuff, I think I’m too soft, and I lack the confidence to believe in what I am doing, and that it is the right thing. Also I think I am afraid that if I do the wrong thing, I may not know the answer to fixing it.

    • Stacy Westfall on December 18, 2018 at 1:06 pm

      My goal was to get people thinking…looks like I accomplished it!

      • Deanna Main on December 19, 2018 at 11:14 pm

        You most certainly did 😉

Leave a Comment


Free PDF Download "Why is my horse...20 things your horse is saying with his behavior"

PDF will be delivered to the email address you enter as will weekly tips from Stacy. Totally free. Unsubscribe anytime.

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