Episode 61: Why would I look forward to my horse spooking?

Why would I look forward to my horse spooking?

In this episode, I explain the stages of horse training as I see them. I use the levels of elementary school, high school and college as levels of horse training. I explain what I’m looking for in those stages…and the idea that just riding a horse for more hours does not necessarily mean they keep moving up through the levels.

In this episode, I go into detail with Presto who is in elementary school. I also explain why I don’t feel safe until a horse in elementary school spooks…and recovers.

During this season, I will be sharing more behind the scenes with Presto, Willow and Gabby so you can better understand the methods I’ve been teaching you.

Click Here For The Full Show Notes


[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses. Welcome to Season 6. In this season, I’m giving you some behind the scenes insights into how I use the techniques and ideas that I’ve been sharing with you on my own horses. I’m going to tell you what’s going on in my barn and in my brain and you’ll hear more about Willow, Gabby, Presto and their training. This week, I’m going into more detail about my idea of elementary school, high school [00:01:00] and college and I’m describing how I use that with my own horses. Last week, I mentioned that Presto’s general routine was pretty basic. This week I’d like to go into more detail. So Willow and Gabby are at a completely different stage of training than Presto. Presto is in elementary school. He happens to be a four year old, but he could   have been a two year old that was in elementary school. But I decided not to start him until he was a 3 year old. So he didn’t even really come into the training program. Aside from just basic groundwork stuff until last year and partway through the year at that. Now, Gabby is now a 5 year old and Willow is now a 9 year old. I’m recording this in January 2020 and [00:02:00] according to AQHA rules and a lot of horse show rules, the horses all kind of age up as of January 1st. So technically the birthdays for these horses aren’t for another few months (around May).

[00:02:18]  But for the purposes of the AQHA or a lot of the shows, we start calling them that year older as of January 1st. So Presto is 4, Gaby’s 5 and Willow is 9. But when I look at their training level, which is the reason that I want to use the terms elementary school, high school and college, when I look at their training level, it is not very reflective of their age because over the years there’ve been a lot of horses that I’ve trained. For example, Roxy, and that bareback bridleless video [00:03:00] that you’ve probably seen on the Internet. In that video, Roxy was a 5 year old and Gabbie is nowhere ready to do what Roxy (Grandma Roxy) was doing back then. And so Willow’s 9 and she’s not doing what Roxy was doing and Presto is 4. And he’s he’s a totally in elementary school, definitely not graduating from college anytime soon. So the reason I want to use the terms, elementary school, high school and college is that in my own mind, I can keep track of their level of training without necessarily associating it to an age. Years ago, when my husband and I kept a training barn full of horses, we had 20 stalls and we typically had them full with a waiting list. It was easy for us to fall into the habit. Of referring to the age of the horse and the training level of the horse. [00:04:00] Kind of simultaneously.

[00:04:02] So when we said the horse was a two year old, it also indicated the level of training that we had put into them and basically kind of the results that were expected. And so the horses were moving along at a pretty predictable rate because they were kind of on a track to go become show horses, the majority of the ones I’m talking about. Now, if a horse just came in back then for like 30, 60, 90 days, maybe it wasn’t on that track as much. But the whole point of what I’m saying right now, looking back, is that we highly related the age of the horse with the training level of the horse, because it’s very traditional for a performance horse to come into training as a two year old (when we’re talking about quarter horses) to come in as a two year old and to achieve quite a bit of training in the next couple of years, where if we want to look at a horse like Presto, I didn’t even start him in [00:05:00] till the middle of last summer. So July 25th was the first day that I mounted up and he was well into his three year old year. So this is why I find it important for my own brain to have these different levels of training that are not associated with the ages. Now, the reason why I’m I’m so into this is because to me, there’s definitely this intersection of the there’s the age people tend to talk about. And then there’s a competency level and that’s a little bit more vague.

[00:05:38] And then there’s the number of hours of training. And if you go back and you watch the Stacy’s video diary, Jac, (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3f1Ii1jkWxexn-LhRzFDNTHAno1t3ka_) you can see that in that whole YouTube series where I followed Jac’s training for a year, I kept a detailed diary of the amount of training that I put into him. So you’ll see on the first video is [00:06:00] zero. And then you’ll see it going up to 10 and you’ll you’ll see that counter kind of rolling over in every video. And I did that because I was trying to convey how much time goes in to making these horses, you know, kind of solid. And Jac was on a more traditional path where he started as a two year old and he was kind of clipping along and going up through. So I say traditional for a performance horse. But it’s also kind of even in my mind, a little bit accelerated because, you know, he was going right along and he was, you know, a a slightly above average student, I would say. So he was he had some issues. So he would push on me and test me. But he learned right along where if I want to compare him to Presto, presto is much slower at learning. And because I don’t look at the training as the horse automatically moves to the next grade. So let’s just, for example, pretend that this horse were in school. And [00:07:00] it’s like when the class is ready to move on, the class moves on whether or not the student is ready.

[00:07:05] So that’s not teaching to competency. That’s kind of like jumping in. And the lessons keep moving on, even if the student gets left behind. And so that’s not what I want to do. And by the way, that’s also how some horses will flunk out of a trainer’s program, because basically what the trainer is saying, if they say that the horse flunked out, is what they’re saying is that the trainer is saying, I don’t want to change my program and slow down for this horse. Well, me personally, I don’t want to do that. So I’m more willing to do like what I’m doing with Presto, which is slow the whole training process down. I slowed it down for more than a year, almost a year and a half, just because when I looked at Presto, I kept thinking, he doesn’t even look like he can stay upright on his own legs. I don’t think I want to put myself on top of him. There was some self-preservation there, but there was also acknowledging that he’s just not as [00:08:00] mature physically or mentally. So I’m willing to do more of this competency based training, which is why I’m saying that he is in elementary school. Now when I look at Presto, let me just go real quickly through a little bit of the idea of elementary, high school and college before I actually go under there. So elementary school, I’m working on bending, spiraling out, smooth transitions. Walk, trot. Canter and stopping solid. It’s it’s not really a fancy stage, but I want it to be a really solid stage.

[00:08:41] Then when the horse starts to move into high school and Presto is not on the edge of this. So he is clearly for me in elementary school. But when they start to move into high school now, they’re able to not only spiral out, but they’re able to counter-bend. So, for example, if [00:09:00] I’m circling to the left, I’m able to keep the bend to the left and spiral them out. So my circle that was 10 feet can go out to twelve, fifteen, twenty, and I can maintain that inside bends. So that would be spiraling out. And when they move into high school, that means that I can lead them all the way out into a figure eight so I can lead them out into a counter bend. So again, let’s pretend I’m circling to the left on Presto. And I can bend them to the left with that left rein,. And that left rein, can say bend. My legs would be used as a gas pedal and that right rein, would pick up and ask him to move his shoulder out to the right, and he would understand to a level where I could take him all the way out into a counter bend, which means as I would come through the middle of that figure 8, I would still maintain his bend to the left, but I would be able to lead his shoulder all the way out and take him on a circle to the right. But with his head bent to the left without changing that bend.

[00:09:58] And then I could bring him back around to the other side of the figure [00:10:00] eight and bring him back in. And there is zero chance if you said I will give you $10000 if you encounter bend on Presto today, I could not do it because he doesn’t have enough forward motion. He doesn’t understand my leg cues enough to maintain forward when I would be applying pressure to both reins because the left rein would be bending him and the right rein, would be talking to his shoulder and it would go over his head (he would not understand), and I can tell you, based on his previous responses, he would get real heavy. You know, some horses will get real nervous because of that much pressure, you know, both legs and both hands talking to them. So these are all signs that the horse is not in high school like they could be, you know, starting to maybe think about spiraling out better. But no, not until they can actually go into that counter bend. Those are some of the signs that they’re in high school now. Other signs they’re in high school. No blatant misbehavior, no biting, no striking, no kicking, [00:11:00] no rearing. That’s an automatic go back.

[00:11:03] And then it while we’re in high school, the horses are going to be working off some kind of combination of leg cues and rein, cues in elementary school. The only thing the legs mean is go forward. And then in high school, it starts getting more complicated because the legs mean go forward. But sometimes a leg also means leg yield, move away from this leg pressure. And so things start getting more complex. And in college, as when the horse understands all of the basics that they were learning in high school and we’re starting to put them in a different combinations and the horse feels pretty solid and doesn’t get really worked up while you’re doing these combinations. So of course, there’s overlap between these elementary, high school and college ideas. At some point they’re gonna be at the upper part of the elementary and at some point they’re gonna be at the upper part of high school. And and that’s there’s gonna be that overlap. But [00:12:00] in general, those are some of the ways to think about it. And so for me, Gabby’s a little bit more. She’s she’s in high school for sure.

[00:12:08] And then Willow is in college. But they’re kind of like Gabby’s not just entering high school. She’s kind of middle, and Willow is more like college, but she’s more like freshman college. She’s not super advanced in it. And so now let’s go back and talk a little bit more about Presto and his situation. So. I want the horses to feel solid at each one of these levels. Solid elementary school, solid in high school, solid in college. And of course, when they’re being stretched out of their comfort zone to go to the next level, they’re going to feel a little bit shaky, which is a sign that they don’t need to be pushed on further to get more advanced.

[00:12:57] They need more repetition. And [00:13:00] so I see a lot of horses that are trail horses because I live right here behind a state park and I see a lot of solid, nice little trail horses that I would say have basically just mastered elementary school. And that is not a criticism. But if the horse is direct rein, only. So they’re not starting to think about neck training or if you neck rein, them and they flip their head or you neck rein, them in and they really invert and really toss their heads and throw when they threaten to rear. Remember, if any of those things happen, you automatically go back. But if the horse is basically like, you know, pull left to go left, pull right to go right. You can start and stop. A horse can live its entire life in elementary school. And that’s not a criticism. That’s just an observation that just more hours of practicing those very basics doesn’t necessarily mean you move up. You don’t suddenly get a college degree just for being pretty solid at pulling [00:14:00] the left rein, pulling the right rein, start, stop. So this is where the intersection of competency versus number of hours versus age. That’s why I want to use these levels. So Presto, I started riding him for the first time July 25th. I mounted up for the first time. And if you want to see a video clip of that, there’s actually the very first time I mounted, I had the video camera on a tripod and that video clip is on my YouTube channel on the trail to the World Show Video Series in episode fifteen. (https://youtu.be/LJGgQ9r5dMY)

[00:14:33] And I think it’s especially funny right at the end because at the very end, almost like a blooper reel. My husband was on the pony horse and I was mounting up and I was gonna have him lead me around inside the round pen for the first time. Oh, was so funny. You have to hear me like I’m laughing so hard I can barely breathe, let alone like mount up on Presto. Who I want to call baby Presto but he’s sixteen hands! [00:15:00] So I’m having trouble getting my foot up to my eyeball level so I can try to get on it. My husband has me laughing. So definitely worth taking a look at that. But. I mounted up on Presto once in July and then in August, I rode him 13 times and it was about when I look back at my calendar. It was about three times a week. And then in September I didn’t ride him at all. If you remember, that’s when I went to the Western Dressage World Show, and then I came home and I didn’t pick up riding him. And then October, I only rode him three times, in November I rode him 11 times. And then in December, I rode him 16 times.

[00:15:46] So even though I can say I started him in July, I’ve ridden him forty four times as of the end of the year. So when we look at the number of [00:16:00] rides or the amount of time spent.

[00:16:04] Over the amount of time elapsed July to December, you can start to see why it becomes important to count competency, because back in the day when I used to take horses in training, I would have ridden a horse that came into training. Five or six days a week every week. So you can see that I haven’t hit that regularity with Presto even once yet. So he would at this point with 44 rides have about the level of two months of regular training. But when I broke it up the way that I did by spreading it out, what I can tell you from experience is that it doesn’t feel the same as a solid two months of training. So what that means is that if a horse walked in the door right now to be started under saddle and I felt that the horse was physically and mentally ready, and [00:17:00] I started riding that horse five days a week. At the end of two months, that horse would look more advanced the more Presto does. And the reason for this is because by spreading it out the way that I have once in July, 13 times in August, nothing in September, three times in October by spreading it out like I did the the pros of this, the good side of this is that the base, the Presto has feels really solid. So even though he has 44 rides, if I were judging him on my training program like I used to do when I trained professionally for people, I would say that he feels like a horse with a solid 30 days of riding.

[00:17:43] And really, as 44 rides or we could call it 44 days if you want. The cons of this is that it’s taken twice as long to achieve what visibly looks like half as much like he doesn’t. He’s just not [00:18:00] doing what what a horse with a traditional 60 days of training would be. But I’ve left out a lot of my opinion up to this point, which is even when I train horses professionally for people, I was very open to telling the owners when I thought the horses need a break.

[00:18:19] So that what that meant was if somebody sent me a young horse to train and I felt like it was in a good place, I would start training it with a pretty regular schedule. As I mentioned in last week’s episode, just because I work a horse on a certain day, that also does not necessarily equate to a certain amount of work. So if you wanted a picture riding like weightlifting, it’s not like I’m making this horse weight lift to its maximum failure every day. That’s not what training is. But what was happening was I would train a horse and if I felt like that young horse needed a break. I would go to the owner and I would say at this point, I feel like you’d [00:19:00] be better off to take your horse home and give it a month off rather than pay to leave and training here, because at this point I don’t feel comfortable doing more than just a little bit of light work with this horse because I just feel that mentally and physically it can’t handle a lot more. So because there was that financial aspect and because it was somebody else’s horse, I was very proactive in conveying that with the owner. What I do now is this is my own horse.

[00:19:26] I don’t really have to convey it to the owner. I am the owner. So I was totally OK with spreading Presto training out totally okay with understanding that the result of spreading it out that thin was almost. You can say it this way. There’s a lot of starting again, starting again, starting again. Because when you give him the whole month of September off and then you got to ride him in October, it’s a little bit like starting over again. And then when you only ride three times in October, which when I look back on the calendar, they were all inside the same week. Then he’s off again until [00:20:00] pretty much until November. So it’s a lot about starting over again. This is why I say he feels to me like a horse with a solid 30 days of training, but not. The 44 days that are reflected when I look at my calendar, but I’m OK with that because I want that really solid thing. So let’s go a little bit deeper into what this means for Presto, because again, I want to share what’s going on in my barn so that you can understand the way I’m thinking about it and what techniques I’m using. So right now, Presto has been using mostly the technique I’m using on him for sure, 100 percent.

[00:20:39] My legs just mean go forward or stop going forward. What that means is that when I mount up on him, I’m still carrying a single dressage whip and I’m carrying that on my inside hand and I’m always riding him slightly bent one way or the other. Presto does not go totally straight yet. And that’s because I [00:21:00] don’t trust him enough totally straight. And I think they use their body more correctly with a slight bend in their body. And I think that for preventing, bucking, rearing and running off, I know that my body is a lot more prepared if his body has a slight bend, because basically I’m already committed to which direction I would pull him if he were to spook or startle or do something. So I don’t really do straight lines. I do varying circles anywhere from like picture like a 10 meter circle to a 20 meter circle. So my arena is about 70 feet wide, which is about a 20 meter circle. So sometimes I’m riding circles that are half that width and sometimes I’m writing circles that are that full width and I’m wandering those circles. My arena’s 200 feet long in that big section. And so it’s 250 feet long in a different section where we can run and slide and stop.

[00:21:54] But that just gets confusing. So I can take that. I can take those circles and I can start at one [00:22:00] end and I can kind of overlap like picture, like a spiral thing. And I go down the arena to the other end and I come back and I do some different things and I’ll get very close to straight. And I I work on sometimes instead of just being legs go forward and inside hand, only sometimes I’ll take my outside hand and try to float it out just a little bit. And I talked about a lot of that back in the episodes with the riders body. And and so I’m I’m doing these very basic things. My legs are meaning go forward. And then when I want to stop, I stop driving him forward with my legs. And I give him a chance to understand that I stopped stepping on the gas pedal and he’s lazy enough that he stops off from that. If he didn’t, I could add more bend like bending him around. And I’ve taught him to stop when I bend him around to my leg. And I did that from the ground. It’s a bend to stand still, not to disengage…

[00:22:55] because I don’t push his hip around afterwards, but these are the basics [00:23:00] and. The interesting thing is that I don’t trust a colt, that I’m starting after hundreds of horses, what I know is I don’t trust them and I don’t feel comfortable until they’ve spooked and I’ve regained control. Yeah, sounds a little bit strange when I say it out loud, but here’s how it works for me.

[00:23:24] When the horse is being started under saddle, they’re learning to, you know, control their emotions through the groundwork that I’m doing, and they’re learning to listen to the riders aids, and that’s what I keep practicing. And I get on and I ride for these short rides and a lot of my rides with him are 15 minutes. And and I and I want to hardwire these, you know, bend your head around. I want to I want to hardwire follow this rein, I want to hardwire go forward. When I step on the gas pedal, I want to hardwire, you know, stop moving when I take the legs off and then when I bend you around and [00:24:00] haven’t even really I haven’t backed him up yet. Like I don’t personally do a lot of backing them up at the beginning. And I’ll get into that later. But I think I’ve covered it before, too. But I don’t want these conflicts, so I don’t back them up. So we haven’t even done that yet. And but I’m not comfortable until they’ve spooked or startled. And I know how they’re going to respond and how I’m going to respond. Now, at this point, I’m pretty confident how I’m going to respond because I’ve been doing this for decades and over hundreds of horses. So this is why I ride with that slight bend. And I know that when they spook or startle, that I’m going to bring them around. What I don’t know until it happens is how they’re going to respond.

[00:24:44] And it finally happened last week. He finally legitimately startled now, don’t get me wrong, like there’s been these little shutters where something has happened and I could have made this happen earlier by stepping up the training program. I could have put [00:25:00] him in more chaotic situations. I could have done different things, but I won’t take him out on a trail ride until this has happened in a controlled environment like in my arena. And so I can guess with horses based on their previous reactions that they’ve had to different things, what they’re going to do when they do the spook and startle thing. And {resto is kind of interesting because not only is he really big, so he’s over a 16.1 hands now and he’s got crazy long legs, but also mentally he has these swings between like he can be really quiet and almost look like this old plow horse that just been driven all kinds of miles and just willing to stand there. I was out ground driving him probably back in October, and I was giving somebody a lesson. They were riding and I was ground driving. And I stopped to talk to them. And he just stopped and rested, cocked a leg, just look like [00:26:00] he could go to sleep. But I also know that when he does get spooked, he can become fairly irrational. And that’s not one of my favorite things.

[00:26:09] Like I kind of if they spook, they’re they’re kind of thinking about it and they spook and they and they kind of recover quickly. But when Presto spook’s what I’ve observed over the last couple of years is there’s a little piece of him that can get a bit irrational. And what I mean by that is if you run into horses that spook something and are willing to nearly do bodily harm to themselves, this should be a red flag. So Presto, some of this is because he’s uncoordinated and some of this is because of the way his brain is working is that I’ve seen him spook out in the pasture and nearly run into the run-in shed and I’ve seen him spook. So we put a mirror up in our arena so I could look and watch myself when I was riding and look at my body position. And I use it when I’m teaching my horses to spin. But when that mirror suddenly appeared on the wall and he could see a reflection actually of a video of it because it was so dramatic, [00:27:00] I asked my husband a videotape. He was so dramatic with it that he would see something move in there and turn and run it almost run into the round pen panel wall that we have there. And it was like, wow, this horse is really having a big reaction to something that, you know, all the other horses were having small or curiosity type things.

[00:27:20] So I know this about Presto. So this is why I’m saying I want to know his response and what that’s gonna be, because if we go back to the four-square model, we’ll get the rider’s mind. So I know that if I take him out on a trail ride and I have my doubt about what his behavior is going to be, that’s not going to lead to a nice relaxed trail ride coming from my end. I’m gonna be tense and that’s gonna make me in my body, the rider’s body. I’m gonna tense my muscles and it’s not gonna go well. And that’s going to convey to my horse that I’m not feeling comfortable and okay. He needs me to feel comfortable because he’s gonna need a little help because he’s still in elementary school. And so that’s the last [00:28:00] thing I want to do is put that tension into his body, too. So I’m going to stay in the arena until this event happens, where I can test my own mind, I can test my muscle memory, I can test his mind. What does he do when something finally sets him off? And and then what? What are his muscle memory reaction’s gonna be like? What choices will he make when I’m cueing him and he’s in that state of mind? Some of that I can see when I go back and watch the video of introducing him to the mirror.

[00:28:31] And some of it happened last week. So last week, Jesse was giving riding lessons. People were coming and people were going. So that meant trucks and trailers pulling out in and out. And I had decided to ride Presto in between the lessons. And so there was a lot of activity. So he was kind of distracted. And I was riding him down near the end of the arena that he thinks is a little bit more scary and happened to be that somebody started to leave and there’s been a lot of rain. So the ground was wet and you could hear that [00:29:00] that shushing noise that like the tires make on wet, slightly muddy ground. And and so it was making this noise and you could hear the creaking and then you could hear this dragging noise and it was just enough to make Presto, you get a little up. So he starts trotting faster and faster. So I spiral my circle down a little bit smaller and then he decides he’s going to spook away from that scary end, which happens to be the end. Outside the building, the truck is driving around. So he’s using this truck as I’m gonna call as an excuse to realize the great monster he’s always dreamed lives down there. And this is where it’s really important. That I can’t control where their shoulders go. Because if he gets straight, so he tried to pull his head straight so that he could lunge forward and try to go to the other end of the arena.

[00:29:55] And I was already anchored. So I was traveling clockwise. [00:30:00] I had my left hand on the saddle horn. My right hand was holding the dressage whip and the right rein,. And I was trotting him in right hand circles and we were near the wall. And so he was speaking about that. And he was becoming slightly irrational to where at one point he almost ran into the wall while he was trying to straighten himself out. This is what I mean by what kind of reaction is he going to have? And me, I’m sticking with it and I’m trying to make his circle slightly bigger. So I’m actually applying my legs because I don’t want him to wind down. Imagine he’s 16 1 and I want to be trotting a circle that’s, you know, 20 feet across. And he’s now wound it down to a circle that’s the size of a barrel racing circle (picture going around a barrel very tightly). I know from my own experience he doesn’t have enough coordination. I can feel that this is like one step away from being wobbly, but [00:31:00] asking him to dead on stop in that emotional state is not going to go well because he doesn’t have the state of mind to be able to stop a standstill. So I’m actually stepping on the gas and spiraling him out, which is something we’ve been practicing.

[00:31:14] Even though I’m just using that inside rein, only. And the cool thing is, so we go around, we have that like kind of spook. But he wanted to take his head straight because then he’d be able to throw his shoulder and go where he wanted to go. But instead I stayed steady and I stayed persistent with the cues we’ve been practicing for those last 40 something rides and he was able to recover and we were able to trot around and we were able to get to a point where he was more recovered because really he the nice thing about some of these horses in this state, too, is that they’re not that physically fit. And so, you know, he starts to get a little bit winded and he starts to think, well, okay, maybe this isn’t so bad. And so basically, I was able to ride through it. [00:32:00] And so we get done and I get off when I get to a good point. And I think to myself, tomorrow is going to be really interesting. So tomorrow, the next day, I get on him and I go right back to the same exercise, to the same location, to the same spot. And he was so good. He was so good. And that is what we are hoping for when we’re doing this, training it for me personally. One of my big goals with Presto this year, I almost said next year, but we are now in 2020.

[00:32:35] One of my big goals with Presto this year is going to be trail riding him. But out back here on the state park, I live in Ohio, behind Mohican State Park, and there’s 98 miles of trails. And I want to cover so many miles a trail with him next year. But there are big, huge drop offs and I will not be able to use some of these elementary school methods if he spooks like [00:33:00] that. So I want to get him to the point where we’re in high school to where he understands the use of both reins at the same time and he understands more advanced shoulder control and he understands more. I’m going to phrase it like this pressure, emotional pressure. So when things get scary, he actually focuses on me as the leader, which is something I see him do very well out in the pasture with other horses because he’s not naturally a leader. And I want him to have confidence in me. But I also know a lot of that’s going to come through some little challenges like that one that we face last week. So I’m going to wrap it up for this week and next week. I’ll be telling you more about the more advanced levels, what Willow’s doing, what Gabby’s doing, and what that means for me with high school college. And if you have any questions about the stages or what I’m doing by horses or basically anything.

[00:33:59] Remember that [00:34:00] on my website, over on the right hand side, they’ll be this orange button where you can click to leave a voice message that I can use here on the podcast. Thanks again for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Links mentioned in podcast:

Trail to the World Show Video Series in episode fifteen. (https://youtu.be/LJGgQ9r5dMY)

Stacy’s video diary, Jac, (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3f1Ii1jkWxexn-LhRzFDNTHAno1t3ka_)



  1. Gretchen Ruffin on January 22, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    I’m really getting alot out of your podcasts! Thanks so much!
    I’ve been dumped due to a big spook do now I’m a little over concerned with spooks.
    My question is, when your horse spooks do you bend them towards the spook or away from it?
    I feel bending towards the scary thing, corner, whatever, will heighten their fear and bending away from it will encourage them to try harder to escape.
    I think I think too much. ?
    I’d like to have a sort of plan so I can be more prepared and stop worrying about it so much.
    I hope u answer. I have alot of confidence in u. Thanks!

    • Stacy Westfall on January 23, 2020 at 7:56 pm

      I like to think a lot too. Planning turns out better for me!
      I bend will feel slightly like you are bending them away from it. Not because you don’t want them to see…and they have a very wide range to look with their eyes, better than we do, so we are not hiding anything.
      The main reason for the bend is so that we can keep them from diving away with their shoulder, which is really hard to ride.
      I keep trying to figure out how to set up a video camera, a scary obstacle, and Presto…so I can video this…without causing problems.
      I think I can do it…if I give it some thought.
      But the short version is that by bending away, we can more easily keep the shoulder from making that really big, hard to ride move.

  2. Charlie Renken on January 15, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Stacy, so you ended with you were happy to see that he was perfect when you went back to the place where he spooked…what would you have done if that wasn’t the case?
    I have the exact situation going on with my 4 year old. I rescued him when he was a month old and have seen him run and flip over a fence when his herd left while he was in another area. He is the low man on the totem pole. He has no problem moving forward. I’ve started him under saddle as well and he gets high headed and nervous and wants to speed up. When tied and no other horses around he paces back and forth. I sure hope i can help him and I get through this. He is the kindness horse I have ever know and wants to please all the time! My desire is to make him the best trusted trail horse around…. I so want to be able to do this. Any help you can offer or suggests would be so appreciated! I have been doing the circle exercise with him to keep him from speeding up. i don’t have near the confidence or experience as you and for sure don’t want to get hurt! Hitting the ground at 57 isn’t quite the same as when i was in my 20’s!! LOL

    • Stacy Westfall on January 23, 2020 at 8:00 pm

      I’ve had several questions about this and I need to go deeper into it.
      I shouldn’t have said he was perfect. Just good. Acceptable. Not spooking.
      I still wouldn’t ride him in that area without bend and preparation. I’m just happy he was steady-even though I was also supporting him.
      If he would have been more reactive my two main choices would have been:
      1) address it when he spooked
      2) (more likely) feel him tensing up because of the spook the day before and work in an area *before* I got to the area of spook. So if I felt him getting tense 100 feet earlier, I would have worked in that area. I would not go to the area of the spook again if I felt tension in either of us.

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