Episode 62: Good horse training is boring…

This week’s podcast continues explaining the levels of training that horses go through. I describe the middle part of horse training as boring…

Picture a bell curve. The beginning of the curve is the beginning of the horse’s training. I call it elementary school and quite a few exciting things happen there; haltering, saddling, bridling & riding.

Then we get to the middle of the bell curve. Where the changes are subtle and the hours are long. The long, repetitive middle. Like Wednesday, everyday…if you don’t see the details.

I explain elementary school, high school and college using Presto, Willow, and Gabby as illustrations. 

I explain what is really going on there in the middle and how it leads to the beautiful things we want at the end. 

Click Here For The Full Show Notes
[00:00:03] 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.

[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. In this season, I’m giving you some of that behind the scenes insights into how I use the techniques and ideas that I’ve been sharing with you on my own horses. Last week I mostly focused on Presto, who I like to say is in elementary school. This week, I’m going to tell you more about Gabby and Willow. And I have to confess, this might not be the best sales pitch for the profession of horse training because good horse training is a bit boring. The reason I say that is because to me, when I look at it, you’ve kind of got the classic beginning, middle and end. And I’m going to lump those into elementary school, high school, college. But even if you read or write an essay. Remember when you used to have to do that in school? The beginning, middle and end, that middle is that big chunk, that middle is that big amount of work. You know, you get that introductory paragraph, you got the big middle where you make the whole argument and make the whole case and then you wrap it up at the end. And to me, that’s what horse training kind of feels like. So when you’ve got elementary school where Presto is, we can call it the foundation. But realistically, it’s kind of exciting.

[00:01:52] So the horses go from not leading to leading. They go from not having been saddle, to saddle. Not having been bridled, to bridled, not having been ridden, to ridden. There’s a lot of excitement with all the new stuff that’s happening and it’s very visual. There’s a lot of firsts that happens, and I think it’s why the things like the colt starting contests have taken off because you can see such a big change in such a short amount of time. High school for the horses. Not so exciting. And I promise I really did have a good high school experience. So it’s not that I have a bad high school memory that I’m now putting on to this horse training analogy. But high school for the horses, the way that I sum it up, it’s where there is just so much that happens, but there’s so much repetition. So did you ever notice when you were learning through your school years that you learned history over and over and over again and they basically taught it to you in layers? So maybe you learned very, very basic American history and then you learned a little bit more detailed and then a little bit more detailed. And so it’s not that the history exactly changed. They just kept teaching it to you in different layers. Or I really enjoyed English class, but there were a lot of pieces about language that were very repetitive like that.

[00:03:31] You know, you’re gonna have a great opening. You’re going to make this argument in the middle. Even if it’s a fiction story, you’re still answering some kind of a challenging question and then you’re going to wrap it up at the end and have some kind of resolution. And so there’s little details that they stack on. But over and over and over again, it’s this back to the basics kind of a thing, but a little bit more detail with these really subtle changes all through school. And I like to think of myself now as being a lifelong learner. So my education didn’t stop when I graduated from college. I still love learning. And that sometimes looks like me driving to another state to attend to class because I read a book and really enjoyed the teachers teaching style and that includes me going and taking dressage lessons. So it includes all kinds of different levels of learning. But again, you know, I’m rewriting and making a new course right now online and it’s not available yet, but it’s the same thing. There’s got to be a beginning. There’s got to be these steps in the middle. There’s got to be this wrap it up at the end, kind of a feeling. You’ve got to have a transformation that happens for the student that goes through this. And so there is this beautiful repetition that happens in life.

[00:04:59] And I think that’s why when you do wrap your head around what’s happening for the horses during the stages that I’m calling high school, you can kind of fall in love with this really boring stage. But I just remember when Jesse and I used to train horses full time in Mount Gilead, that we would occasionally have people ask if they could come watch us train. And sure enough, same idea, like if you’re picturing colt starting, you’re picturing these big changes that are happening. But people weren’t picturing that most of the time they were picturing us. You know, we’re gonna go show at the horse Congress. So they’re picturing all this really exciting stuff happening. And they’d come out and watch us ride. And we’re basically walking, trotting and cantering around the arena in circles and in straight lines. Doing transition’s… a little bit of bending, a little bit more stright lines. Not the most exciting thing to watch. And sometimes people would be brave enough to be like. So when do you do all the big stuff?…like the approach to a really great sliding stop. Is that really good steering and a really good circle and a really good lead? Change is actually hidden inside of that ability to add a little bit of bend and add a little bit of straight and go back and forth between the two.(the sliding stop is hugely affected by the approach…which is developed in the steering)

[00:06:23] Without this wobble happening, but as this big lump of stuff in the middle, that tends to get people bogged down in the training process, I think that when they look at it, it’s sort of like that hump day idea that like Wednesday, middle of the week, I’m stuck here. And really I like the analogy of that bell curve because I do think that beginning of the colt, starting in the elementary school, I do think it’s this shorter period that’s kind of ramping up. I think that whole middle of that bell curve is high school. And then I think that other trailing downside on the other side is college. And that’s all that shiny stuff that so many of us want to get to. It’s where a lot of excellent liberty work is, whether you’re talking about on the ground or under saddle. And I do think there’s a difference there, because I think you can play with groundwork at liberty. And if the horse leaves, you’re not really in danger.

[00:07:22] But if you are playing around with liberty riding, which would be what people are calling it when they ride bridleless or with a neckrope, and I think that is a different category because it is more dangerous if the horse decides to leave and not listen, you’re on top of it. So this could go dramatically worse than playing around with liberty on the ground. And I think the cool thing about both that they do have in common is that you have to figure out how to get into the horse’s mind. And so when I say that high schools are really big deal, it’s because it’s this big lump in the middle that helps you get to the other side to college, which is where so much of these things that we really want with our horses live.

[00:08:07] Even when people go on a trail ride and they want to have a really enjoyable ride, some horses are naturally going to be laid back. Not too hot, not too cold, not too spooky. But the majority of them need a level of training that is going to help those things happen. Say you’re out in a group and the group energy gets up that your horse doesn’t just really have a big reaction to it. And a lot of that is training. And so that’s where all this stuff in the middle happens. Last week, I spent quite a bit of time talking about Presto. And I kind of talked about elementary school. And I even talked a little bit about why I wanted to feel that first reaction of him spooking at some level. And I’m going to just go ahead and say, because I was laughing at a Facebook comment somebody made. I do want to just clarify that when I say I want to feel the horse spook or have that kind of reaction. If I’ve been watching the horse during all this groundwork and early riding and that horse tends to spook by literally like kind of startling in place, then I’m like, yes, I love it when my horses tend to do that. And you’ll see that out in the pasture. They just don’t.

[00:09:19] They might just, you know, turn around and look at something. And that’s their version of a spook. But as I clarified, Presto’s version of spook can be very, very large out the pasture. So I knew I wasn’t going to feel comfortable until I felt him have to make that choice under saddle. And that’s not because I want to cause it to happen. It’s because he’s been telling me he’s now four years old. He’s been telling me for the whole time that I’ve owned him, that he has in there this ability to have a big giant spook. And I needed to know that he would respond under that kind of pressure. And I didn’t cause the pressure. It was caused externally. But I needed to know how he was going to handle it. When I was in the driver’s seat and this is really important stage to me. And if you buy a horse and your horses pass the elementary school stage, it’s not like you have to go trigger all of this. I’m just putting this out here as as ideas and thoughts for the different stages they go through. So right now, what I want to do is talk a little bit about high school and, you know, where the lines get a little bit blurred. So I don’t have a perfect line in the sand on where high school blends into college.

[00:10:36] For me, there’s a little bit more clear line in the sand from elementary school into high school, because I think the horses need to be able to counter bend and move their hips and do some of this stuff when they get up into high school. So kind of that that counter bend idea and some of these different things become a more clear line for me because we’re moving from the basic stuff that I can see a horse that is going out on the trails that doesn’t necessarily a lot of trail horses don’t know how to counter bend. They’re not going to have really good shoulder control. And so to me, it’s like they can they can totally get along without it, but not to a level of excellence. This is where the questions of neck reining stuff come in. But let me back up a step. Gabby is to me very clearly in high school, and what I mean by that is I still work on bend and spiral out and counter bend. I can move her hips. So that means I can go in a straight line. I can leave her shoulder on that line and I can move her hip to the left or the right off that line while still keeping the shoulder on that line.

[00:11:45] I can also ride in a line and I can move the shoulders off the line while leaving the hip on the line. And I’m phrasing it like this because there’s all kinds of different names for it, depending on what discipline you’re in. Whether you’re saying shoulders in, or haunches in or renver or travré or, you know, move the hips out, move the hips in all these different names for all these different things. But I want you to have this picture in your mind that these are the type of things that I’m working on and that when I say that I can move her hips in and out while leaving your shoulder on the line. That line could be a circle or a straight line. When I say that, I can move her shoulders in and leave the hips on a line. That line could be a straight line or that line could be a circle. It’s that idea that I know exactly where I want to be and where I want those body parts to be. I also am very comfortable getting her to do a slight spin so she can spin pretty decent. She’s not what I would call finished, but she can step around pretty consistently with rhythm. She can halt, she can back up and we can inconsistently change leads. So the lead change can probably become, as I work on refining, how to express my thoughts to you guys. The lead change will end up being one of those things that’s kind of like gonna be one of those lines probably in one of the grade levels or or changing from high school to college or somewhere in there because it starts to get advanced.

[00:13:26] But before I go too much into detail with that, the interesting thing is Willow is older and more solid. But when I look at the list of things that she does, it is essentially the same list as Gabby. With the added thing that she does, the more consistently and more confidently. Willow also has more physical strength and physical balance because she has more practice, and I think balance is an interesting thing because I think that physical strength, physical balance thing is way underrated when people are are thinking about this from a training perspective, because when I switch back and forth between Willow and Gabby, there are so many similarities between what I’m working on as far as, you know, let’s just use that idea of leaving her shoulders on a line and being able to move her hip left or right. There is just more physical strength and balance and flexibility that Willow has because she has more practice. And a lot of times when I’m working with Gabby, it’s more apparent to me that what somebody would naturally want to call resistance is actually her losing her balance. And it’s just an interesting concept that you’re riding around on this horse and you’re asking it to collect.

[00:14:49] So instead of just kind of loping along with the head wherever it wants to be, you watch a lot of times is naturally more up and uncollected in the back isn’t as strong and the hind and isn’t pulled up underneath as much if they’re going around and they’re kind of uncollected. When you ask them to collect, one of the reasons we do that is because it’s going to be long term better for the horse’s body. So as a personal challenge right now, we’ll look at how you’re standing or sitting right now. If you’re standing or sitting right now, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re doing it in poor form if you’re not sitting in a slouchy kind of a way or standing in kind of a way that’s not ideal based on what you’ve learned about your physical body over the years. Then kudos to you, because you must be really focusing on using your body correctly. And that’s basically what I’m doing with the horses when I ride them. I’m trying to show them I’m their physical trainer showing them. Yes. It might feel good to slouch in that chair, but this is what’s causing your back pain later. And for the horses, when we’re riding them and we’re asking them to to work and do some of these things, we can actually build their bodies in a way that is so cool because they get stronger and more fit. But what I love watching as I love watching my horses at play after they have training.

[00:16:14] Because if you’ve ever seen in a little video clips that I’ve posted with maybe Facebook or Instagram stories or even some of the videos, all posts on YouTube that have the horses playing, fascinating to me to see that the more highly educated and trained they are, the more physically they use their body in these really dynamic ways. And that means that I can turn out lots of horses that don’t have training and they kind of just play mine, do these crazy freaky jumping moves that are very elegant and big because they have this strength that doesn’t just come from being a young stallion, you know, who’s out showing off and and doing things out there in the wild, which can happen. But it’s also this strength and conditioning of these horses that are essentially like standing around waiting for us to bring them their food. So they’re not doing as much physical. It’s so cool to me to watch them use their bodies more physically as I help train them as their physical fitness trainer. So Willow has a lot more confidence. She’s more confident in her in what I’m asking in her response. She’s more confident in even receiving training. What I mean by that is that when I correct her, she doesn’t get kind of like, oh, no, she doesn’t get insecure. And so that leads to this balance of body and mind, which is really interesting just from repetition.

[00:17:40] But here’s the part where people tend to tend to think, wow, this sounds really boring. If you watch me ride this afternoon, when I head out to ride, it’s going to be looking like I’m doing a lot of circles and straight lines and then some moving across the arena kind of diagonally, whether that’s a leg yield or whether that’s a half pass. But for the most part, there’s gonna be a lot of circles and a lot of versions of straight lines. And I showed quite a bit of this in Episode 17 of the Trail to the World Show, and that’s on YouTube. And I’ll put a link in the show notes. But I think when people hear me say that, they kind of equate it to something like driving to work every day. And if you think about driving somewhere repetitively, let’s just use the example of driving to work every day. When people think about that, they think about how boring it is, how your mind just kind of shuts off and you’re able to like show up at work and not even know how you got there, kind of because you mostly were doing this unconscious version of driving. But that’s not at all what it feels like when you understand the detail of what’s going on in this training. Really. It’s a lot more like practicing a dance routine. And so on the surface, it looks like we’re doing things really repetitively.

[00:19:02] But for the two dancers that are dancing together, they’re always these subtle differences. And this is important to know because the majority of my time training horses is going to be spent in the high school stage. I was trying to figure out how to illustrate this. And probably the best way is to say that I have over the years I was asked a lot of times when the video with Roxy riding bareback and riderless went live. People would ask, how long did it take to train that horse? And I went back. And because we had a pretty consistent training routine back then, I just went back and did the rough math. And basically back then I would take a horse in training and I would work the horse five to six days a week for many years. So Roxy came and training as a two year old probably around April. And so from April through December, for 2 year old year, she would have been worked about five days a week and roughly an hour a day. And so that’s gonna be somewhere around one hundred and ninety five days. One hundred and ninety five hours. And then as her three year old year and her four year old year, those years for a training horse and training get a little bit more intense. And so it’s normally like five or six days a week. Hour to an hour and a half a day.

[00:20:20] I just went with the math of five days a week for an hour and a half. It’s going to have some flexibility in there. And I didn’t keep records on her the way that it did on Jac, later when I did that video series. But now you’re bumping up to like around close to 400 hours a year, you know, three ninety. You’re in the high 300s anyway. And it’s just the sheer consistency that gets you there. And there’s gonna be times when you put in a lot more hours like you take these horses to shows like you saw me document last year with Willow and Gabby. And there’s times that they’re not hard days, but they’re long days. And the good thing about a long day is that it’s going to be…it’s not as physical because we’re not necessarily doing as as physically much demanding stuff. But it’s emotional. And there’s just a lot of time spent at the horse shows that seasons them in a different way. So I’m really comfortable saying, you know, that 390 right around 400 hours a year for that three year old and four year old year and then her five year old years, actually, when you see me do the bareback and bridleless ride. And at that point, Roxy was pretty solid. So I had cut back on my days. I was riding her maybe three to four days a week. A lot of that was for maintenance because there is a level of physical.

[00:21:39] You know, just physical exertion that’s happening, she can’t be completely unfit, like you can know how to run a marathon, but you got to stay in marathon shape or whatever level of running or exercise you want to equate there. Just because you understand it. And mentally and because you’ve done it physically, you can’t just be like a couch potato and then walk up and do it again. So she had to have a level of fitness. And then really that year I was working a lot on my balance and transferring things to a lot of bareback because the whole time her 2 year old, 3 year old and 4 year old year, I was doing all of the training with the saddle and the majority of that with the saddle and the bridle. I did play around with some bridleless during her four year old year, which is where you see the wedding gown routine. But the reason I want to say all this is because if you look at it, her elementary school hours were easily under 200 hours of it. Maybe it’s 100 hours. I’m not even sure it’s that much. But, you know, early elementary school is not that many hours. And really, if if even if you take her whole five year old year, that still doesn’t add up to 200 hours because she was only trained through October of that. And then I she just kind of went in to break after we did that ride at the Quarter Horse Congress in the beginning of October.

[00:23:00] So, you know, you’re only bumping around like maybe a hundred and fifty hours that year just wasn’t that many hours. So the majority of it was done in the middle in that high school, in that stuff where it’s all this stuff in the middle and it doesn’t look that magical. But I’m telling you, it’s where the magic lives. If you want to see some of this that I documented really well, you can look at Stacy’s video diary, Jac, which is on my YouTube channel. I’ll also put a link to that in the show notes. And I actually chart Jack’s training from zero hours of training with me all the way through one year later, March to March and I’m at one hundred and twenty five hours of training at the end. And his hours were a little bit lower. I figured that Roxy probably was, you know, again, I said bumping around 190, something like that, probably in her two year old year. Now he didn’t get as many, because if you watched that series, he ran into dental issues. That knocked us out for a while. He ran into soundness issues where he felt a little bit sore, probably just growing pains. There was nothing dramatic that was wrong. And I just gave him a chunk of time off. So he lost time.

[00:24:17] He also was being documented during the time that we sold our house and moved and moved around the country. And so he was on that trip with us. And so there were there were times that I lost time because of things like that. But it’s a really good video. If you watch the one episode, at least that one. You can see what one year of training look like. But if I tell you that I spent, you know, 800 hours with Roxy working on, you know, circles and straight lines and all this kind of boring stuff, what the heck am I doing out there? And what I want to tell you I’m doing as I’m working on balancing and strengthening the aids and the cue system. And so it’s not that revolutionary. It’s still the left rein, the right rein, the left leg. The right leg is my seat. It’s my go forward. You it’s my slow-down or collect. It looks a lot like the stuff that you heard me describing in earlier podcast: bend, spiral out, counter band. But when I look at something like a circle, so let’s just say that I’m riding on the circle. What I’m doing when I’m out here, when I go out here this afternoon and I get on both of these horses because remember the biggest thing between Willow and Gabby right now, I actually do a lot of the same exercises. It’s just that Gabby feels more insecure, more wobbly, less strength.

[00:25:47] And so let’s just look at the circle. I’m gonna ride this afternoon. I’ll go out there and I’m very specific about where I want to be in the arena. So it’s like when I’m going to ride down a straight line, I visually have a straight line picked. So I know if we end up a foot to the right or a foot to the left, I have already declared where I want to be. So I can actually say I’m ending up a little bit too far to the right or a little bit too far to the left. I look up and I pick a point and I ride to that point and I know what that straight line should feel like. And that same thing is happening on the circle. So I’m using the circles and I’ve got these points on the circle where I need to end up if I don’t end up there. The horse either was in a little bit too far out, a little bit too far. And I’m analyzing how that happened. So let’s look at that circle. What I’m doing when I’m riding around and I say I’m balancing my aid. I’m not trying to find this perfect balance between left rein, and right rein, left leg and right leg. And I think sometimes when people are riding with me, I see them. And I think they’re trying to find this like if I have four ounces on all four of these things, it will be perfect.

[00:26:58] And the best analogy I have for you is one of those big exercise balls or the equine activity ball that I use out in the barn with the horses when I sit on that ball and I want to see if I can balance on it. I don’t try to sit perfectly still and hold my breath and not move because that’s the fastest way to fall off from it, because you get really stiff in your body. So when I sit on that activity ball and I try to balance, I am lightly moving myself left and right forward and backwards, just these tiny little movements. It’s almost like I’m choosing to move my body a little bit left, a little bit right, a little bit forward, a little bit back, because that’s how I’m going to keep myself. What appears to be perfectly still and that’s kind of how it feels for my aids when I’m riding around with these horses. So ‘aids’ being my cues with these inside and outside rein, and leg. And so when I’m riding around that circle, what I’ll do. Like, for example, today when I’m riding around, let’s say I’m going on a left hand circle. I’m working right now with Willow and Gabby on essentially neck reining. Even though I’m kind of working on my dressage because there’s so much similarity here. So if I were riding around on Presto on a circle, the left, I would use the inside rein,.

[00:28:19] And I know I could bring him in to the left and I could even send him out by like adding more gas pedal and spiraling out. Well, I’m not just gonna be doing 400 more hours of that when I get the horses up to high school. So what I’m working on right now with Willow and Gabby is that I’ll be going around in a circle and I will apply the outside rein,. So circling to the left, I’m going to apply the right rein,. And this is where it gets interesting. I’m going to apply the right rein, to ask the horse to bend to the left and go slightly to the left. But there’s an art to how you apply that outside rein. Now keep in mind that if you looked at me, I look like I’m riding dressage or English, whether or not I’m in that tack and attire doesn’t matter. But I’ve got contact on both reins and I’ve got contact on both reins. I’m laying that outside rein, on the neck, but I can’t force the horse with that outside rein,. If I pull with five pounds of pressure on the outside rein,, I’m going to pull the horse into an incorrect position. So there’s this balancing act of like how much pressure? Let’s just say I put, you know, a half a pound or a pound on the outside rein,. There’s a balancing act between how much rein, I need there to get the response of moving that horse’s shoulder to the inside of the line of travel.

[00:29:42] There’s a there’s a balancing act there of how much pressure I add on that rein, because I don’t want to invert the horse. I’m actually wanting to be using the right rein, while I’m going to the left and have the horse looking to the left. Now I’ve got to keep my legs on the horse to keep the horse going because otherwise that rein, alone could act a little bit like a break. And I may need a little bit of help with the inside rein, to help the horse to figure out what I want. But I also really, really probably will need the inside leg a lot to keep the horse from falling in. So at the stage that both of these horses are at, they’ve caught onto the idea that I’m going to use that outside rein, on their neck to steer them in and I’m going to use it gentle enough that they can feel it and they understand it, but not so heavy that I pull their head to the outside, because right now I’m not working on counter bending. So I don’t want to see their outside eye. I want to see their inside eye. But I’m actually going to use that inside leg and that’s going to kind of be what keeps them from falling into the circle. And so a different way to look at it.

[00:30:54] So I don’t get too detailed and a little bit confusing here. A different way to look at it is that I’m riding around going I’m going to use a little bit more outside rein, than they might be comfortable with. And then I’m going to go fix it with an inside leg and inside rein,, maybe an outside leg. And I’m basically wiggling things around, kind of like when I was sitting on that ball. If you sit on one of those balls and you notice you keep constantly slipping off to the right hand side, you’re going to start trying to wiggle yourself around and figure out like, how do I stay up straight or how do I even wiggle myself off to the left hand side? So there’s all of this wiggling the horse around between my aids to figure out how to get more and more precise and when I’m working on this left rein, or neck rein,. What tends to want to happen with a lot of horses is that they tend to want to collapse the inside of their body. They tend to want to…some people will call it falling in through their shoulder. I’m going to call it more that they’re not respecting the inside leg. And so instead of steering around in a circle and having the same shape as the circle you’re steering on. They kind of fall into the circle. So it to me, it actually feels a lot more like it does when the horse spook’s.

[00:32:07] Have you ever been riding a horse and they are afraid of something. Let’s just say it’s at the far end of the arena. And what they want to do is they want to throw their shoulder in. And that’s this. Yeah. Well, great. You’re going around to the right. But now they’re kind of diving into the right cause they’re trying to avoid something on their left. And so when that happens, it’s got this diving in, feeling.

[00:32:27] Diving in is what Presto was trying to do. When I was explaining in last week’s episode when he was spooking, he was trying to dive in. So essentially what’s really interesting here is when Presto was diving in, when he was spooking. The thing he was most disrespecting was that inside leg and he was even really like trying to rip the rein, inside rein, out of my hand so he could straighten out and run away to the other end. And it’s kind of interesting that in a very subtle way I’m still working on those similar things. Just had a lot more advanced level with Gabby and Willow. And for me, what this looks like is there’s just a lot of this subtle stuff. And I think that’s where. If you go take a riding lesson or if you watch another rider being coached on some higher level things, you can start to see the detail of of moving these horses around suddenly inside between all four of your aides.

[00:33:27] There’s more… because you’ve still got a forward motion and slowing down. So even though I’m riding around on these horses and it looks like I’m just circling, circling, circling, I can feel the subtle difference of if, let’s say, Gabby decides she wants to spook a little at the end. I feel this same idea of the resistance that Presto had when he was trying to change his body and go somewhere else. It’s just at a much more subtle level with a horse like Gabby or a horse like Willow. And interestingly enough, it’s those same little wobbles that happen that are where the problems in the lead change happen. So one of the reasons, Willow, is getting more and more solid in the more advanced things like the lead change in the reason why Gabby is more inconsistent in the lead change is that Gabby’s less consistent with her first response. Presto is a whole nother level of inconsistent with his first level of response. That’s why I said when he spooked. I really want to know what that first response would be. And it wasn’t that pretty. And now Gabby’s is much more mild. It’s way more pretty. But it’s still there’s that level of of resistance, that level of, you know, I gotta go. I gotta get out of here. I’ve got a better idea than you do where Willow, which is interesting because she is insecure, more insecure than Gabby, but she has more training and she’s more secure in trusting me and trusting the aids.

[00:35:08] So at this point, she can legitimately get more scared. So Gabby doesn’t scare that easy. She’s just way more sure all the way around. We’re now jumping around and talking a little bit about the horse’s mind. You know, she’s just a more confident horse, so she doesn’t spook that easy. So she just doesn’t you know, it doesn’t typically experience a lot of things that would register on the scale as a 7, 8, 9, 10, where Willow registers things that she takes as a 7, 8, 9. A lot more regularly. But if you watch them right now, you wouldn’t know that about Willow because she’s getting so confident in the cues and in me that I’ll feel a little wobble that I know used to be something that would have had a reaction of an 8 or 9. And now she just looks very alert and people almost can’t see it. And that’s the beauty of spending so much time in this middle. That is kind of messy, because at the end of the day, we’re still working on these ideas that I bring up all the time on on the teeter totter because there is a balance between straightness and power. But you can also get a lot of stiffness when they’re straight and powerful.

[00:36:25] And there’s a lot of bad things that can happen when they’re straight and powerful, like look at some of the worst bucking, rearing and wrecks and you’ll see a lot of straightness and power. But there’s a lot of beauty that’s possible there. And in bend and softness and flexibility, you can find a lot of fluidity and things like that, but you can also find horses that bend and get disconnected from their feet. That’s what I call it when you like bend them, but they head a different direction and you’re like, oh, goodness. Now, you know, now they feel disconnected from their feet. So straightness can be beautiful or it can go wrong and bend can be beautiful or it can go wrong. And it’s that that finding that balance in the middle is. All of these hours spent in the middle are doing. And I’m going to lean on you guys to ask a few more questions about this so that I can figure out a way to convey this even more. What I’m working on right now is actually a new course where I’m going to have lots of little video clips, lots of short video clips that explain or capture moments to illustrate this in a much, much better way than I have in the past, because I’ve collected quite a bit of footage and I think I’m going to be able to do some really cool things with it to help bring this messy middle, this high school the horses go through, into focus.

[00:37:48] That is so important. I want to bring that into more clarity for all of you. Thanks again for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Links mentioned in podcast:

The Trail to the World Show, episode 17

Roxy as 4 year old, bridleless with wedding gown: https://youtu.be/Uu-0NesE20g

Stacy’s Video Diary, Jac: entire series  click to watch on Youtube

Stacy’s Video Diary, Jac: Jac with one year of training, click to watch single episode


  1. Gretchen Ruffin on January 23, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Can’t wait to see your high school videos!! I get so much out of these podcasts.
    Thank u!

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