Learning More About Horses
Willy in winter
Improving Your 
Horse Skills

This site just keeps growing -- and this is the spot with the most activity. With more than 300 pages, it's a sort of on-line clinic... helping folks solve a host of riding and other horse-related problems... as well as answering a few questions about cowboys, Western history and such. If you have a question, just use the handy Q&A search box, because it has likely been asked before!

Basic pointers

The primary key to working with a horse is communication. You need to learn how to read your horse's mind -- much of which involves reading its body language. The horse also needs to understand what you are thinking. You communicate your thoughts to your mount by the various aids -- bit and reins, yes, but primarily by your balance and body position. I have seen many beginning riders trying to use the reins to tell the horse to slow down, while their body language told the horse to go faster. Then they wondered why the horse acted confused.

Balancing exercise Anything you can do to increase your feel for the horse's movement and your own balance will make you a better rider. (This picture shows Amy Brown doing one of a series of balance exercises I have my students run through frequently.)

Another important element of working with horses is understanding the herd mentality that God built into the critters. A horse has an emotional need for someone to be in charge -- it's part of the herd instinct. If it senses that you don't have that "I'm in control here and you will do what I say" attitude, it will try to be the one in charge. Be a bit aggressive -- I didn't say mean or cruel -- and use the aids to show it that you are the one calling the shots. Once it feels comfortable following your lead, you'll find that it will act a lot calmer.

...Which leads me to another interesting point: a horse will generally end up behaving toward you like you behave toward it. If you act frightened, the horse will get the message that there's something to be afraid of - and you'll have a spooky horse on your hands. Be mean to it, and it will be mean to you. Let your attention drift away from the job of working with your horse, and the horse will stop paying attention to you. On the other hand, if you keep yourself calm, attentive and self-disciplined, you'll soon find yourself riding a calm, attentive and well-behaved horse!

What It's All About

Willy throws a birthday party Of all the mistakes I've seen horse people make, the absolute biggest is this: They forget to have FUN! If the pressure of competition or your drive to make your horse perfect is getting in the way of your (and your horse's) enjoyment, STOP IT! Your horse will perform much better when it enjoys what it's doing, and so will you. So, when the fun starts to disappear, give your horse a carrot, take a leisurely trail ride - taking lots of time to smell the flowers or pick some wild raspberries - give your horse a brisk rubdown (and lots of hugs). God put horses on earth for our benefit - not so we could make each other miserable.

In this picture, Tiffany Grigsby celebrates her birthday along with her sister Stephanie and cousin Sarah Tracy. We just had fun... some with a saddle and some doing horseback gymnastics on a bareback pad. Everybody had a good time - including Willy.

Click Here for The Questions & Answers Page...

Galloping horse

If you want to learn more about training horses, you won't find a better instructor than John Lyons. Here's one of his books that you might find helpful:
Lyons on Horses
John Lyons' Proven Conditioned-Response Training Program
John Lyons Book

Format: Hardcover, 1st ed., 228pp.
ISBN: 038541398X
Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Incorporated
Pub. Date: September  1991

The Publisher describes the book by saying: Every year, some 10,000 people attend Lyons's clinics to learn the secrets contained in this complete training program for horses and trainers of all skill levels, by one of America's most popular and trusted trainer-instructors. B&W photographs and illustrations throughout.

Galloping horse

If you can't find this book in your local library, you can order it from Barnes and Noble by going to my Trading Post or using this handy link:
Find Books Fast

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The contents of this document are not for reproduction.