Mercedes’ Top Pet Peeves

In no way does the following represent all the equine world insults to my senses, but they seem to happen more often than not.

Firstly, there’s not a whole lot I find more frustrating than getting on a horse, applying leg, and having the horse do absolutely nothing. Even worse is if I get an ear flick indicating the horse ‘heard’, and then nothing. I’ll accept a lateral step, a back step, a jig, even a cow kick at my leg; just give me something to work with.

In most cases the ignore is entirely the fault of the human/s. Most susceptible are lesson horses that have to deal with beginner riders, whose leg aids are often poorly timed, inconsistent, and downright as annoying as TV snow. Still, it’s an easy fix and I have never understood the prevalence.

Related is the horse that has to be aided by the leg every single stride to maintain gait or pace. The horse should respond to the leg when applied and then maintain whatever was asked until the leg is applied again for a new request. Even worse is the horse that has erroneously been trained to move forward only with constant spurring. The spur was never meant to be used to create forward in the horse, but rather a tool for subtle and exacting cues of upper level movements.

The reason most often give for the previous scenerios: The horse is lazy.

Horses are not lazy; they are simply unmotivated in the moment. While that might sound like semantics, I believe it’s an entirely different perspective which can make a big difference in how the person approaches the horse, and therefore how the relationship develops. Is the glass half empty or half full? Being labelled lazy is clearly negative and there’s finality to it like it’s a done deal and can’t be change. Being unmotivated in the moment is less negative because there’s a possible upside; motivation may occur in the very next moment.

Don’t think for a second the horse doesn’t know what kind of a glass it’s being viewed as when you approach. I’ve never met a lazy horse, but I’ve sure met a lot who’d rather lie down then work for the human aboard.

Every 50′ (or less) round pen in existence needs to ploughed under. There’s a reason why the first circle figure is 20m (66′). It asks the horse to bear a little bit of extra weight on the inside hind, and to bend through the length of its body a little bit. Very few green/young horses can negotiate a circle smaller than 20m correctly to start, that is without counter bending, leaning on the inside shoulder, losing the haunch to the outside etc… The same is true of horses that have certain conformation traits that make engagement more difficult and lame/sore/injured/stiff horses.

Sixteen feet in diameter may not seem like a lot, but for the horse it’s night and day. For every circle the horse does incorrectly, it has to do ten correctly to undo the damage of using the wrong muscles the wrong way. Think about that before you opt for a too-small round pen.

Natural Horsemanship is responsible for the uptick in round pen usage over the last couple of decades. Part of those programs is teaching horses to turn in and face the handler, especially during the ‘free’ longeing process. Hate it, and I’ve seen it lead to all sorts of problems.

Worse still is when someone teaches that to the horse when longeing with a line on. The horse should stay out on the circle, facing forward, and wait for the handler to approach. Advanced longeing in a longeing cavesson will include the horse making an inside turn to change direction, but the horse only does so when specifically cued for the change of direction. Otherwise the horse stays on the circle.

I know that Natural Horsemanship guru’s teach turning slightly away/taking a step back from the horse to invite it to you. Blech! Face to face the horse is in a superior power positon, and while this ‘come to me’ is often used for horses that are timid or as part of ‘joining up’, I don’t like it and don’t encourage it. It’s not necessary to win over the horse, nor to later have horses come running when called. And let me tell you, it’s a real bugger trying to reteach a horse to longe properly.

Now is the time when I pick on riders, especially those with their eyes stuck to the ground. Seriously, if the ground is that fascinating might I suggest you dismount, get down on your hands and knees, and get a real close-up look to satisfy your curiosity.

Your bowling ball of a head falls forward, your shoulder’s round, your center of gravity tips forward, your seatbones lose contact with the horse, your lower leg loses its position, and your heel lifts. You are now ripe to end up right where you’re looking. In fact, I find great pleasure in walking up beside such a rider and pushing them off with little effort on my part. But never mind you, you’ve just made your horse’s job of balancing you and itself that much harder and put him/her on their forehand.

And if you’re someone who’s got their eyes planted on the horse’s shoulder to check posting diagonal or canter lead – time for you to learn to feel your horse’s footfalls and body. I really wish instructors would stop teaching riders this short cut in the first place.

The other big rider pet peeve I have is that of the incorrect use of terminology. Specifically the big buzz words like collection, extension, and impulsion. A horse piddling around at lower levels most certainly isn’t doing extensions or collection. They might be capable of lengthenings and a lower degree of engagement, but when you need someone to explain to you the aids of shoulder-in, you most certainly didn’t just ‘collect’ your horse on your last ride. Frame compression, specifically neck shortening, and your horse taking itty bitty steps isn’t collection. Not referring to anyone here unless it applies.

It also annoys me when people use terminology like ‘giving to the bit’, when it’s clear the horse is evading contact and is behind the bit. That kind of ‘giving’ is incorrect. A horse accepting contact can’t necessarily be correctly described as ‘light’. Rather the contact is better described as ‘alive’ and therefore constantly changing as horse and rider communicate and perform tasks. ‘Lightness’ is often evasion, particularly if it’s constant/static, which will certainly feel better to a rider than the horse that leans on the bit, but is still incorrect.

Speaking of bits…if I see one more full-cheek bit without keepers…

Finally, in closing: Western Dressage. Enough said.

Feel free to add your pet peeves and get it off your chest. Perhaps afterwards I’ll consider doing an anti-pet peeve list.


68 thoughts on “Mercedes’ Top Pet Peeves

  1. All good peeves for sure. One of mine, (and I bring this up because I have been more active on the computer lately due to trying to learn how to use them) is people who complain about not enjoying their lessons, being afraid of their horses, can’t find a horse they like, etc. There seems to be a lot of that, and I am sure that we all go through phases with our horsemanship, but for me personally, my horse has never been other than a joy for me to have.

    Horses are expensive and time consuming. I find this disconnect in parts of the horse world peeving.

  2. I have a couple…

    People who bridle or unbridle and clunk the bit into the horse’s teeth. (Bonus points if they are also ear-mashers.) There’s just no need for this. It doesn’t take any more effort to do a nice, smooth job and it’s better for your horse.

    People who do not ask nice first. This is hard for people — they’re like “I had to kick him to get him to trot last time, so I will just skip to the kicking this time” because they think that saves time. It doesn’t. It trains your horse to be dull and LOCKS HIM INTO THAT LEVEL OF RESPONSIVENESS because he’s never offered the chance to do better. If you ask nice (and escalate appropriately, using the same progression every time) your horse will opt for the better deal. He doesn’t really want to be kicked. If you skip the part where you ask nice and head right for the kicking because “that’s what worked last time”, your horse doesn’t have any chance to improve or any idea that improvement is possible.

    People who think the proper time to address trailer-loading issues is at the end of a long day of showing. People who want to “help” the people addressing their trailer-loading issues and “git ‘im onna trailer” by whatever means necessary.

    Oh, and people who act like the stuff their horse fusses about is permanently broken instead of looking at it like the horse is saying “I need more practice on xxx”. If your horse is crappy at picking up his back feet, for example, the correct thing for you to do (assuming it’s not a physical problem like arthritis or whatever) is to spend more time picking up his back feet until he’s better at it. He’s not gonna get better without practice.

    Actually, looking at the list, my issues are with people. Not with horses.

    • all my biggest pet peeves start with people, too.

      I don’t have a top ten list though, because it is so long and I can’t prioritize.

  3. People who blame tack for their issues, and spend all their time/energy/money on the search for the perfect saddle or bit or bitless miracle bridle or whatever that will make their problems go away. Yes, good saddle fit is important, and so is a bit your horse likes. But after you’ve dealt with the obvious maybe the horse just needs training.

    I see this in my other sports too, people who endless change up every aspect of their skates, or snowboards, or bikes, or whatever, to try to become faster or more agile, when they really just need more practice. I think we’ve all seen the old guy on the ski hill (or whatever) who can kill it eevn though his gear is from 1975. Because he’s been doing it so long and he’s THAT GOOD. There is just no way to buy anything as a substitute for putting in the hours.

  4. I have a long list of much bigger issues, but the most annoying, petty issue for me? leaving the halter attached to a cross tie when done tacking. Not only can a horse get caught in it, but I have gotten caught in it…and face planted as a result.That and not wiping off the bit. Disgusting.

  5. Well you’ve known me long enough to know I HATE it when horses aren’t forward and are dead to the leg. I teach people to ride and I don’t and won’t ever have a horse that isn’t trained and ridden correctly and so it’s not made to ignore subtle aids. I’ve had loads of people say mine are “too forward” or “too light”. That’s bollocks! There’s no such thing!

    It makes my teeth curl when people say they’re horse is faking being lame to get out of work. NO IT’S NOT YOU FUCKWIT! HORSES DON’T LIE AND DECEIVE!

    Ditto for people saying “my horse is lazy” or “my horse pulls”. I’m with Mercedes totally on the “lazy horse” and it takes two to pull!

    Blaming the horse for bad behaviour or bad riding or for not “getting” something won’t ever go down well with me.

    I have to bite my tongue when people say they’ve “rescued a horse”. WTF is that about!? Doesn’t anyone nowadays just make a good well considered decision to to shopping and to buy a nice horse that’s fit for leisure, sports and pleasure.

    I hate the words “on the bit”. It’s come to mean “haul the head in”.

    I hate hearing people say they’ve got “light hands”. Then again I’ve NEVER heard any rider say “well I am heavy handed”. I’ve never even heard that even though they’re hauling my driving reining machine across the yard!

    It peeves me when people put on bridles by standing in front of the horse and poking their hands and bits of leather in the horses eyes and rattling it’s teeth with a bit. This action is normally followed by some crappy story about how the horse is headshy because it doesn’t like men and was beaten on the head with a bucket!? uhhhh NOOOO, it’s because you’re a cack handed moron!

    I loathe seeing horses lunged off headcollars and especially when they don’t even fit.

    I also hate full cheek bits with no keepers.

    It pisses me off that people use feed as a substitute for good management. There’s people that genuinely think you can feed a horse till it’s trained, quiet, well behaved, better etc etc etc. They’re suckers for food marketing hype!

    Ditto the above with bits! I’ve actually had someone ask me what bit they could use to achieve a better shoulder in!

    Mercedes also knows I don’t “do” roundpens.

    I’d rather have an arena or a nice fenced small paddock. But then I’ve never seen the need for a roundpen and there’s absolutely nothing you achieve with one that you can’t do without one.

    I’ve personally never used a round pen, don’t own one and having seen folks “work” their horses in one I don’t even understand what they add to horse training.

    I can however totally see the problems that could be caused by making use of them.

    I personally never want young horses going round in little tight circles in ANY event.
    The most a horse learns in a round pen is to go and turn and stop. You can also use it just to establish very basic leadership. However you can do that anywhere and including in an arena or small field.

    It has little to do with training the horse to UNDERSTAND what it is doing and to feel relaxed about it. That’s another thing entirely and there’s a host of better ways than doing it in tight circles and putting strain on an unbalanced horse. So I’ve never felt the need to have to have a constrained area and pay to have circle fenced to waste a bit of land.

    On the basis of experience, I’m totally convinced that working (particularly young) horses in this way, whether in a round pen or poor lungeing in a small circle is hugely contributory to multi-factorial lameness.

    IMO such work is too restrictive and positively bad for developing bones and supporting structures.

    In round penning, the horse learns to lean on the circle and to become dependant on the pen wall to keep it’s haunches and/or shoulders from popping out. This means the horse isn’t kept straight, but rather the horse learns to brace it’s body to maintain the circle, which is too small in the first place.

    Round and round in a round pen without an opportunity to straighten and thus become supple actually works against you and is poor in terms of muscular skeletal development. A supple horse is a more attentive, relaxed, and willing individual. They’re also less likely to come up sore and unsound.

    I think that’s 11 and I’m not anywhere near really started on my top peeves!

    • OK, I’m with you on the “rescue” thing. I could easily say that I “rescued” my horse, but I didn’t. I bought him fair and square bidding against the floor buyers at an auction. However, if you have never run across an old horse that will fake a lameness on an unsuspecting young girl, (like me in my long ago youth) you have never ridden an old been there done that cow pony.

      • I was just going to say something similar to trailrider20 about the old fake lame horse. There was nice Morgan gelding where I first learned to ride. For a brief period everyone thought he was lame because everytime a kid pulled him out of his stall he hobbled around and so he was put back. Eventually we found that if any adult took him out, he was perfectly sound in hand or for riding. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with him either. So they had a lesson kid take him out–lame, saddle him, get on–not lame. He was a good actor but he quickly learned he’d been caught in his lie and stopped doing it. I admired him for it ;o)

    • I would disagree about being impossible for a horse to be too forward – I was bolted with (miscommunication + too much horse for me, not horses fault) but end result was a bad accident which has badly shaken my confidence – even 6 years later I still have issues with my confidence, especially when it comes to feeling like the horse is very forward. Quite frankly it still scares the c**p out of me. My girl is responsive and goes forward when asked but generally off a nudge rahter than a very light feel – I don’t want a horse who goes forward off a very subtle aid, partly because I don’t have great control over my lower leg due to injuries caused in above accident so I do lightly nudge Roo when I’m not intending to give aids.

      While in an ideal world all horses and all riders would be capable of riding with only subtle aids, this can cause issues with beginner riders who will give accidental aids which, on a sensitive horse, could cause accidents. They absolutly shouldn’t need booted – I hate seeing that but some horses can be too forward for some riders

        • nope, not at all 😀 but that one experience has meant I don’t cope well with forward horses. I would rather have a horse I need to push on slightly because I feel more confident with it and one which most would term as ‘forward’, ie super responsive and keen to push on would be one I couldn’t cope with. Perfect for a more experienced and more confident rider but not for everyone.
          I don’t have to boot my girl, I dont’ use a stick with ehr and she goes forward of nudges but isn’t what I would call a forward horse

          • I’m with you – there’s such a thing as a horse that’s too sensitive and too responsive for certain riders. For a beginner or a rider lacking confidence it’s good to have a horse that ignores very subtle cues since those may have been inadvertent. That’s not the same as a horse that doesn’t go forward when asked, just a matter of how sensitive you want that throttle to be calibrated. Personally, as a rider who isn’t a confident as I once was, I like horses with a reasonable tolerance for rider error. I guess that would be an anti-pet-peeve – horses that will save your butt when you screw up.

      • That’s got nothing to do with “forward”.

        You probably also need to know that if you miscommunicate and unintentionally ask a horse to “go fast” that also isn’t a “bolt”. A fast run say half way round an arena or up a field or on a track is NOT a bolt!

        A bolt is when the horse is GENUINELY in that flight and fright mode and its not thinking or listening at all to any rider or driver.

        • It started as a misscommunication and ended as a bolt – he had been harsly treated before I got him and a switch flipped someitmes and he would just run. We were flat out gallop around the school and he (apparently, I don’t remember) kept going 3/4 times round the school after I came off him flat out. It also eventually killed him as he took off and bolted when his loan rider came off and ended up running right onto a cattle grid.

      • Vet checked him thoroughly and it was very exagerated when I child was leading him and at no other time. That place was ON TOP of it when it came to lameness in their horses. Turn out time…not so much.

    • Sorry, I have to disagree on horses “don’t lie or deceive”. They bluff their way out in the herd hierarchy all the time, and I call that deceit. I certainly have seen an old mare very quietly sneaking a treat while blocking the view of her herdmates as to what she was up to.
      The “lame” horse who faked himself back into his stall is pretty common. It is learned behavior and probably was kindled by one incident of actual tender footedness that resulted in his being put away without work. A clever horse who learns quickly would only need that one time. My mother, who was raised around draft horses, had a number of stories of horses faking lameness until the collar was put on, then with a gusty sigh, they settled down to business. No, I don’t think horses have human emotions per se, but they certainly display playfulness, deceit, sorrow, content, hatred and, in some rare instances, humor. This could be a topic for another thread.

  6. Biggest pet peeves….there are many….

    Horses that are never taught to be halter broke and tie as weanlings. There’s no excuse for this except human laziness. Wearing a halter and somewhat leading are not “IT”

    Horses allowed to move when being groomed / mounted. Whoa is whoa. Period. Don’t be a wuss and make excuses, they understand this concept 100%

    People who micromanage their horses. Let the horse be responsible for its own feet and position to the handler. Don’t “hold” it there, “ask” it to be there. Don’t hold a leadrope near the horse’s head, 2′ away is about right and respectful of the horse’s space.

    Using food as a motivator. NO. Cookies are for after a good effort, not to attempt to create it.

    “Games for horses and handlers”. aka ‘how to make a nice horse into the meanest SOB you’ve ever seen” ….and give it a treat!

    People who post pics of a horse on fb doing the “Mexican dance” i.e. violent head whipping left to right in sequence to the hind leg being blood-spurred to near split level to mimic the head and then making a comment like “neat”. Pull your heads out of your asses, notice the fear, sweat, froth, terrorized eyes and nostrils flared to extreme or go buy a Breyer and leave the real ones to people who actually like them.

    Lastly, for now, people who blast Western Dressage. My theory is this should be rewritten to be ‘poor dressage’. The saddle has little to do with poor riding on either shore.

  7. Wow. Some mad people. I find a round pen to be highly useful in teaching young horses voice commands and hand signals. Why? It is a space where the horse has to pay attention to you and the voice commands are vital as we progress into harness training and eventually, saddle training. The hand signals are the visual cue combined with my voice that teaches “lunge-walk-trot-canter-trot-walk-whoa-turn-come here-stand-back”. All those voice commands are a rather important vocabulary when they are in harness and starting under saddle. I agree the round pen has a real danger of the horse using it as a crutch for support and when you see them start to do that, it is time for the long lines and outside work. A two year old can certainly work 15 minutes in a round pen without doing damage to his joints. He will make sharper turns and stops while playing in his pasture.
    I think clumsy or awkward horsemanship is much more forgivable than deliberate abuse from someone who knows better. No, most are not perfect riders, but if there is a desire to improve, much can be overlooked. Much as I dislike Parelli and all the equipage, the people who flock to the clinics genuinely want a relationship with their horse. Wessage is a target, granted, but I also see people who are having fun, sharing accomplishments with their horses and showing a genuine desire to DO SOMETHING with their horse. They have been made to feel unwelcome in the dressage ring and the show ring, and now they have someplace to go that allows them to recapture the idea of doing something interesting with their horse. And heck, you even get to dress in cowboy clothes! I think half the reason I ride Hunter Pleasure is getting to wear breeches, nice shiny boots and a cool helmet. 🙂 . Carriage driving in the 70s and 80s was a place where people could show up with grandpa’s buggy with a fresh coat of paint, and they could have fun driving the obstacles. However, anal retentivity overcame most of the fun of carriage driving and now they are having trouble finding volunteers to work their shows. 5 pages of rules for a “pleasure drive” was enough to make me bail out.
    I have been fortunate in mainly dealing with horses and riders in circumstances where I set the rules, so the more egregious stupidities of owners/riders/trainers are not so familiar to me. I am sure I would have an equally long list if I was a boarder who was a bystander only. When I have been a boarder, it has been very difficult at times to keep my mouth shut. My wife, however, feels no such compunction. 🙂 As a result, the boarding barn tended to clear out in the evening when we came over to work our horses.

    • I’m with you on round pen training being a valuable training tool. Being round removes corners to hide or evade in which keeps their focus on the handler and moving forward. I use my body to teach voice commands, step in front while asking for whoa and then quickly back-pedal to prevent a direction change. I always want a turn toward me and can typically teach this to a horse in the first lesson. I can also use the walls to teach bend and proper tracking, inside turns help the horse learn to give to the inside, push their ribs out and cross over. If the pivot gets too big and sloppy, I step in to the shoulder and the turn tightens. There is very little contact needed and it’s an ideal place to teach body control and open the lines of communication. IMO very few people use a round pen properly – chasing a horse around with a stick and allowing the horse to shoulder in, turn tail to handler, cross canter, invert and all the lot of bad habits that horses will try to evade with teaches them nothing. It is the ideal place to ride for the first time, I’ve started quite a few horses without help and the only 1 that got me off was the quietest ‘sleeper’ that reacted to the feel of the girth moving on his belly and jumped straight up while I was half mounting. I ate dirt and I deserved it.

      And the WD thing – this is what I’m doing these days and I’m having a lot of fun. I certainly get my share of hairy eyeballs at clinics and shows! Fortunately, I’m at the age where I mostly don’t care. If anything, it adds to the challenge. This is the best competition going for retired reiners like myself or people who have no interest in crippling movement seen in stock horse shows. We get to move out a bit, ride lateral movements and wear fun clothes with a little bit of bling. There’s so much more to learn up the ladder and I truly believe that western basics and Classical Dressage principles can and will make some nice riding horses.

  8. People who don’t sweep up after themselves….

    Thanks to flies, getting the tail swish in the eye… it sucks and it hurts….

    People who project “human emotions or feelings” on to their horse . This usually results in a very uncomfortable horse thanks to the 3 blankets, all around halter fuzzies, boots on all four with bell boots, and a slinky under a hood. Jeepers people… really?

    People who can’t read their horses body language. How do you not see that the horse is sweating under 3 blankets, is being rubbed bald at the shoulder by the hood, that the halter fuzzies are too big and bug his eyes so he rubs and that the boots don’t fit properly and have slipped down everytime by the time you bring him in?

    People who treat their horses like they are dogs. They are not. Period.

    People who don’t instill manners and let their horse get away with all sorts of undesirable behaviour. Folks, it’s 1,000 lbs of animal… would you really want to deal with a 1,000 lb toddler? I know your BO or the barn staff sure doesn’t! …and trust me, they ARE complaining/laughing/rolling their eyes at you behind your back.

    People who can’t figure out why their horse has undesirbale behaviour (pawing for treats, nipping, standing impatiently, etc.) and complain about it yet feed them a treat every time they fart (literally and figuratively).

    Putiing polos on only to get to the end to find that they have been rolled backwards.

  9. My pet peeve is all those people who don’t know how/don’t take time to properly groom their horse. I see so many at the barn where I board.

    They bring their horse in from the field, run a brush over its back a few times, and throw the saddle on. Then they ride barrel patterns or poles or whatever until the horse is sweaty, take off the saddle and pick out its hooves, and back in the pasture it goes.

    Or the ones that braid the mane and tail “so it’ll grow” and never think to undo those braids for months.

    And the ones that brush their horse’s neck and back a lot, but never get the belly, under the tail, or inside the hind legs where sweat and dirt accumulate and attract flies. That’s like changing your clothes but never taking a bath! Don’t be shy, people; proper hygiene is important. (Also, my gelding makes hilarious moose lips of rapture when I sponge his bum-crack.)

  10. I finally figured out my number one pet peeve. All the people who vet their horses for every little thing, keep it perfectly groomed, maybe even touch up the mane and tail with dye if it sun fades, have all the latest fad in tack and training devices, despise everyone who doesn’t do things the way they do, be it equipment, riding style or clothing, and yet their horses feet are always unbalanced, the musculature is all wrong, the backs are locked down and they have to keep vetting those horses because they are ruining them. All the people who can’t look at a horse and tell that it is ridden wrong without ever seeing it ridden.

    Round pens aren’t evil, they are generally used improperly because a couple of trainers used them wrong because they didn’t understand the principles and since they are/were great marketers, thousands of people use them incorrectly. Round pens existed in ancient times. The great classical riding schools didn’t use a round pen, but trained from a central pole as well as between two pillars.

    Western dressage isn’t evil because it uses western tack (and many western saddles can be better for a horses back than the english saddles based on jousting saddle trees that pin the shoulders and withers). Western dressage fails because it imitates modern sports dressage too closely.

    Too many people sweat the superficial appearance of things and don’t understand the foundational principles upon which good horsemanship stands.

    • You first paragraph is a great idea for a future topic here. Examining musculature of horses against their owner’s chosen discipline and its effect on them. Why a horse can end up with an upside down neck:

      or be ridden a bit better and achieve preferred condition:

      I’m not saying wrong and right but see if more as poor and improved. It takes time to unlearn and it takes the right teachers. People need to see themselves in these posts and grow into better riders and horsemen. And sometimes that means going it alone for a while until they find the right niche, the right isntructor.

      I for one am always looking for ways to improve myself for my horse. I think there are many others who would choose to but don’t know how. They’re ridden how they’ve been taught, competed and succeeded and thought they knew all they needed to know. This is where a little length of tooth pays off. I want more, I mostly listen and apply what I learn. I’ve chosen to stay with a more Classical trainer for the few lessons I take when the convenient more modern trainers are readily accessible.

      Western Dressage will fail as long as judges do not reward the effort as set forth in the rules & regs. All Dressage fails when incorrect movements are rewarded, when hollow extension is preferential to a lower, more balanced working trot. I’ve seen WP rejects ridden with the same sensitivity as they did at breed shows score well in WD. Bit jerking, stiff unyielding hands, locked back and zero lateral flexion.

      How does it change?

      • it isn’t sufficient for judges to reward the effort, more people need to understand what should be rewarded. I can almost guarantee that the vast majority of those judges think they are rewarding correct effort.

        • In a recent schooling show, I was given a low score for free walk and the judge noted that my horse’s head was too high. His nose was poked out and poll well below the wither….and all this time I thought I was doing it right! The next day his free walk went out the window and it was a ‘oh come on, really?’ walk and we scored better. I’d never anticipated such an ingroguous scoring sport.

          • You have to let it go. 🙂

            Dressage is often more subjective than it should be, and at the lower levels where there’s only one judge, that judge can miss things (good or bad) because of their static perspective.

            Certainly if you’re in the learning phase and expecting to get input from a judge as to how to proceed going forward, judges that get it wrong can lead a rider down the wrong path and that sucks the big one. Dressage isn’t the only discipline that suffers from this.

  11. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t the 20 meter circle fixed upon because that was about the largest clear span that the roof of a typical renaissance riding hall would support? So, possibly nothing particularly special about the 20 meters (other than I would agree too small a circle can cause many problems)? Did Xenophon discuss circles? Darn, I have his book somewhere here…

    • I may start a riot – my round pen is 30′. My trainer’s pens were 24′ and 40′. I’ve never had a horse that can’t canter a 30′ circle though some struggled with balance at first. I had a Belgian mare cantering in there as nice and sweet as can be – her choice on day one. I start slow, usually stay w/t for weeks unless the individual is especially handy. To me, a 20m circle is huge and requires little effort from the horse though I know others will disagree vehemently. This is where the basics of what we teach and the order in which we teach is quite different in the various circles. I teach bending, basic lateral work and backing before I ever canter a horse under saddle. To me this is normal. Go look for that book……… 🙂

    • I don’t know about renaissance-era riding halls, but there are a great many indoor arenas in use that are 60′ feet wide (which is a little less than 20 metres) because was the largest width that could be obtained on standard trusses, with a significant price jump to go to specifically-engineered trusses to get anything wider. Living in Canada where there is a lot of indoor riding, I’ve ridden many a dressage test in an arena that was only pretending to be 20 x 40. And when Canada adopted the USEF dressage tests, which introduce the 20 x 60 arena at a lower level than the former Canadian tests, it was a real challenge to horse show organizers. Since I’m a Canadian who has been on a horse show committee, I can tell you all about how a dressage arena fits into a hockey rink (almost, but not quite).

      In short – I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the 20 metre circle became the standard because of engineering at the relevant time, and not for any magic about the horse. The practical considerations of construction are very real!

      • That’s like saying 15m is just a number they picked because it was raining that day and the outer 5m was to deep to ride in, and was 10m for some other non-horse related reason, and 6m was just because.

        FWIW, a horse can’t do anything smaller than a 6m circle (also known as a volte) because the equine body can only bend so much and remain straight on the circle.

      • I agree with the practical considerations. When we built our indoor arena, there definitely was a price hike once you got over 60 foot for timber trusses. At that point, the weight on the chord of the timber truss was borderline for support, especially when you factored in snow loads. My Amish builders over-engineered my trusses with side braces, and as a result, following a snow and ice storm, 3 other area arenas failed, but mine held, even though it was kind of scary to sight along the chord and see the bend in the center of about 10 inches! I don’t know if 20 meter circles come from close observation of the horse’s capabilities or descends from the available space under a timbered riding hall. I suppose it does not matter, as the whole structure of dressage is built around 20 meter circles. I just enjoy going off on odd tangents when it comes to horses and training. So much of what we do is really an anachronism, truth delivered-from-the-mountain so to speak, that it is refreshing to step back now and then and ask-“Why do we do things that way?”

        • Yes, exactly… people have been riding horses for at least 4,000 years now. The leaps of human knowledge that have occurred in that time are astounding. As modern horse people, we have to figure out what parts of accepted wisdom really are the absolute best way tried and true across the centuries, and what is simply “the way things have always been done” handed down without question. I mean, we used to think the earth was flat, and we used to think the best way to help a horse jump was to lean way back to lighten the horse’s front end.

          We still have traditions like always mounting a horse from the left, apparently so that one’s sword at the hip would not be in the way. For the modern swordless rider there’s no biomechanically sound reason to always mount from the left; wouldn’t it actually be better for the horse if we alternated mounting sides every ride? The horse world is rife with things like this. So I think Morganman’s questioning the origin of the 20 metre circle as the basic dressage figure is interesting, was it really from some fundamental principle of the horse or did it derive from the size of the average riding arena at the time?

          • On the subject of one sided mounting, I went to look at a horse with a friend and after his demo ride I removed his saddle (from the right) without thinking and the horse almost jumped out of his skin. I work from both sides of the horse and don’t give right side mounting/saddling a second thought. In his 8 years, it was apparent that nobody had done that before.

          • Horses should be worked and mounted/dismounted from both sides, HOWEVER, there’s not a thing wrong with a tradition that EVERY person can rely on as having been done with a horse – such as being mounted from the left side.

            Consistency is very important to training up horses. Afterwards you can get creative and be more thorough.

        • I appreciate that you think about this, and they aren’t really odd tangents, they are valid questions as to why we do what we do and if there is a rational reason for it. My mom always cut the ends off a ham before she baked it. Being a troublemaker, I asked why. She said her mom always did it. And I asked why. She thought a minute and said, because her roasting pan was always a little short for a standard sized ham. I said, our pan isn’t too short, why are you cutting the ends off the ham? She stopped cutting the ends off the ham.

          I take the same approach to what people tell me about horses, it isn’t just what you do, but why you do it. And I have made a lot of study of the whys so I can evaluate the what’s and hows.

          Which takes me back to some of my earlier points about the lack of knowledge in instructors. Many don’t study horsemanship from a theoretical and historical point of view in any depth, no one examines traditional methods and newer methods and many can’t tell which are which. We are losing a knowledge base even as more knowledge than ever before it available to us on the internet.

    • well, no, that isn’t what determined the circles. That is putting the circle before the horse. The 20 m circle is the circle that a horse properly bent, ie, nose to the inside and hind foot landing in the track of the front foot and moving straight, ie, keeping those hind feet in the track of the front feet will describe. In other words on a typical horse you don’t have to know how big a 20 m circle is to ride it if your horse is moving properly. Just as what Mercedes said below is true, a volte will be ridden when you have sufficiently gymnasticized the horse so that it can bend to its maximum.

      Extremely large or extremely small horses may cover a slightly different distance but it will be close. The old time horsemen, who lived an breathed this stuff every day, all day long, applying their minds to it and being keen observers, had this worked out.

      Many horses can’t bend properly, so that if one tries to force them onto a smaller track, they will merely move incorrectly, losing all benefit from the exercise. Eventually it may lead to joint damage and muscle pains, damaged ligaments and tendons. Nevertheless, the damage to your training will be done long before the permanent damage to the horse. You will reinforce incorrect movement. Every minute reinforcing incorrect movement is hours wasted fixing it later, if ever.

  12. Found it. Unfortunately, he says in Chapter II that he does not “find it necessary for me to describe the method of breaking a colt”, as his audience was aristocrats and cavalrymen who hired the breaking done. He does say “colts not only must love men, but even long for them”. I think my fat gelding is happy to see me (and my food bucket), but I don’t think he “longs” for me! 🙂

    • Yea, but we are reading his words not only through the confusion of translation, but the fog of centuries. If you have read any of his other books, he had what seems to me more of a fact relating, that storytelling way of putting his thoughts.

  13. Drives me nuts when someone rides my horse but wont listen when I tell them how my horse handles. Had one lady ride my Arab who was very light. Made it clear he shouldn’t be bumped it drives him nuts. Down the trail we go and I see bump ,bump, bump. I asked her why she was doing that and her answer was that’s how she rode her horse. My reply was that isn’t your horse and no wonder yours is dead sided. Had one paint like that and he was broke of that bad habit really quick. Some people just don’t get the horse has learned to ignore your nagging leg. When I ride someone’s horse I ride it the same way they do or as close as I can. No 2 are the same and I wouldn’t ride them that way.

  14. A horse wearing an ill fitting halter. When I see a halter that is hanging low on a horse’s face I want to fix it. Much like when I see young men walking around with their pants riding low; I just want to yank them up!

    A small pet peeve compared to others.

  15. Laziness. It’s such a morally loaded term for horses and people both — it implies some lack of resolve, energy, uprightness, etc. When people get vet checked, it often turns out there’s an underlying medical reason: depression, or low-level virus, or hormone inbalance, or overweight, or sore feet. But then there also seem to be basic differences between your friends that are energizer bunnies and always have been, and the ones that take everything easier, and don’t put full effort into anything. And then there are those of us who can be really obsessed about what we want to do, but let everything else slide (like the housework).

    The Paint Mare is in fact strong, fast, and reasonably fit. But every single ride, almost, requires warming her up and getting her mind around the fact we are now going to have some fun. It’s like taking your big sturdy friend to aerobics class on a Saturday morning, and she’s standing there in the gym saying my feet hurt, my back hurts, I don’t look good in these shorts, it’s too hot out, let’s just go eat now, I feel stupid here, we only did this for an excuse to have brunch, right? Let’s skip class and eat. Then the music comes on and she dances for 45 minutes like a mad woman, doesn’t want to stop, at the end wants to go out dancing again that night, says this is most fun she’s had in years, let’s go hit the weight room now, and you have to beg off because you don’t have the energy to keep going. But the next Saturday morning she is whining all over again. And if you point it out or you do anything but humor her, she gets really angry and plants her feet and refuses to move at all. You aren’t being supportive or fully recognizing her reality and the terrible week she just had. Or she bucks. Then when she’s made up her mind to canter, she doesn’t want to stop.

    I don’t know if this is “lazy” or not (person or horse). I completely get that a horse should move off the lightest touch of the leg, and the Paint Mare will do this beautifully once she is warmed up. But she is also capable of just shutting down and refusing to acknowledge all aids, and accelerating them doesn’t do anything (taptapTAP with the whip, bumpBUMP with the leg, spurs). I’ve started to think of the process I need to go through with her as “getting the music started,” and it might involve riding on the trails before the arena, lunging, in-hand work, etc. It is all about getting her into the mood. I can push her on the ground even when she is refusing to move under saddle, fortunately.

    I don’t think there is any major issue with her feet, her tack, or her health. If her feet do hurt, or her saddle doesn’t fit, or the rider has touched her face in the wrong way or lost balance, this horse definitely lets you know.

    Anyhow, with people “lazy” is a large, totally negative, term for a general lower-energy approach to things that could be caused by a wide combination of physical, medical, emotional and motivational issues, as well as values, whether the job at hand even seems worth doing, or boring, and so also I’m sure with horses, except that they can’t actually tell you the details (I stepped on a pebble on this path yesterday so I’m not going to trot here today just in case).

    And like the other post about the talking horse says, do you really want to listen to them complain all day?? Is that a mosquito? Are there going to be mosquitos? Should we turn around and go eat? Is that a bear? Was there a bear here last week? Let’s just stop and eat. You didn’t say thank you last time you asked me to shoulder in, why should I do it now? If I stop and make a cute face will you give me a treat? Look, there’s a child, if we stop and talk to him will he give me a carrot? I think my feet might start hurting tomorrow so I am *not* going to trot here. And then, later: yeehaw, let’s go. Why are we stopping? That’s not fair, I was just getting going. I was born to RUN!!! What, you’re getting off and loosening the girth? OK, let’s go eat then. I’m the boss of you and I say we eat NOW. Ouch. Why did you pull on my face? I was just trying to eat. NOW. Ouch. NOW. Ouch.

    We are however making progress, partly because I am riding better than at the start.

    • Funny comment!

      I would sum this up as a general lack of work ethic.

      Here’s how I look at it: For 23hrs of each day the horse gets to do whatever it wants. For that other hour of the day, it does what I want – within reason. I don’t ask the horse to do something it’s not ready, willing or able to do. It’s always my responsibility to make sure the horse is healthy, sound, prepared, and just generally managed properly.

      When I work such a horse, the moment I put one piece of tack on that horse, fun and games are over, it’s time to work. We don’t buck, snort, romp, try to grab for food, look woefully off into the distance, pay attention to what the other horses are doing, call to others, or otherwise mistake me for anything less than the center of the universe.

      I’ve had to have it that way because I’m typically fixing other people’s screw ups, and I really dislike being treated as less important than a fly by a 1000lb+ animal. Call me crazy.

      I’m working with a 4yr old right now who had what you’d have first described as ADD. What’s that? What’s that!? Ohhh, what’s that over there? Oh, must go there.

      She acted just like your mare. Me: Hello? Hello! HELLO?!?! Her: WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME!?!?!?!? A pattern of ignore, ignore, then over react and get mad/offended.

      Fixed her wagon in just a half dozen longeing cavesson lessons of no more than 15mins each. (I do love me a good longeing cavesson.) Horse wouldn’t stand still in ties, does now. Horse would call to her friends, doesn’t any more. Horse would ram into the sides of the round pen walls at full speed and make like she was going to jump out, now stands quietly in there on her own until asked to move.

      I would say to you, Paint Mare, you just aren’t important enough to your horse for her to care about what you have to say until she’s good and ready to care.

      Having to coax the big, sturdy girlfriend to workout on Saturday would wear thin on me in a big hurry…like 5 minutes. We’d be having the ‘sit down and shut up’ talk right off.

      Become more important to your horse and she’ll stop treating you like a second class citizen. Press her. Press her hard if you must. Be super consistent with what you want from her. Give her a chance to respond, but be prepared to skip to demand when she’s flipping you off. Ignore the outbursts. Lavishly praise the responses you want.

      • Well said Merc….and 100%, every day of the year, on the money. Watch a mare tell another do move and gauge her patience for reaction time. 1 second if the other is lucky. So fooling around for 5-10 seconds begging and nagging is a waste of everyone’s time. I like to think of it as ‘get in, get out’. Make it count, get the reaction, move on like nothing every happened. People are too afraid of offending horses…..but funny how the horse doesn’t mind offending humans at all! 🙂 Treat your horses like they are smarter than you think because they are!

  16. Comment and response: both great! Having somewhat the same problem with 3 year old Morgan mare earlier this summer. However, consistent workouts with no excuses and now she sort of looks forward to going out of her stall and “doing something”. Ears up, head up, ready to go. Horses are adaptable to the “rules of the herd” and during each lesson she is the beta member of a herd of two, apart from her usual gang of fellow stablemates. This, from a horse we filmed last winter laying in a snowbank, refusing to get up and work in her harness. An actual tantrum, with squalling and head thrashing. 🙂

    • Morganman….what part of the country are you from? Reason for asking is an acquaintance who has 3 Morgans and he’s aging. 2 geldings and a stud. They will be needing homes and haven’t done anything in years. Stud is a more modern type, fireball. One average gelding, one’s pretty good sized. Just thought I’d run it by you………..

      • I am outside Knoxville TN (a displaced Yankee in East Tennessee…). I have two stallions already, but will try what contacts I have if they are in the area.

        • The horses are in CT. 😦 I’ve known this man since I was a kid and one of the studs (2 studs, 1 gelding, my bad) is a son to a liver with flaxen stud he let me ride when I was no older than 12. Will never forget that day! I don’t know his breeding – he was called “Quick” and was a rare color in the 70’s. The old stud is nearing 30, the younger one is under 10 I believe, gelding around 12. I’d love to see these guys get a decent home. Owner is a good man, loves those horses but he’s well into his 70’s now. If anything pops into your head……. Thank you!

          • It is truly a concern for us (I am 60, wife is 65-and still training!) as to what to do with our horses as we grow older. 30 is not unusual years for a Morgan, and we want to be sure we have homes lined up for the younger ones and a merciful death for the old ones (they will never go to auction). Maybe depressing, but an interesting thread would be: What steps have you taken to care for your horses when you no longer can?

          • Morgan… friend and boarder were talking about this subject recently and we are each leaving $$ to the other to care for our horses. There aren’t too many people I’d trust to follow through on my animals’ care as it’s a significant responsibility! There’s more to it than getting $, sending the horse to a boarding facility and writing monthly checks. We’ve all heard and seen enough horror stories to know that the welfare of the animals needs to be monitored on site, not from a far.

            My tooth is a tad shorter than yours or your wife’s but not enough to ignore this real issue. Though I hope to be training at 65 too! Kudos to her!

  17. My wife just stood there and laughed until Hallie had enough and scrambled to her feet. Sometimes they have to figure out this stuff on their own.

  18. Hey, an observation some of you may like. I’m currently at a big, A-circuit hunter/jumper show for two weeks. This is the first one I’ve managed to bring my horse to this year due to some work and life issues. And I am seeing significantly fewer standing martingales on the hunters compared to a year ago, the last time I got to one of these things. For a long time the martingale seems to have been part of the uniform for hunters; every horse had one even almost none of them need it. This year I’d say maybe only half the hunters have a martingale. That’s still a lot of horses with a martingale they don’t need, but it’s a positive step; if you won’t stand out by showing without one, hopefully more people will just leave them off.

  19. ADD is certainly one of the politer things we’ve called Paint Mare — or just overly social (she would be that big personality girl in class who is in the front row smiling at the teacher and then a minute later texting her friends and waving at boys out the window, and totally amazed that the teacher got mad). The plus side of her personality is that she’s very alert on the trails, things don’t take her by surprise and so she doesn’t spook, and also that she is completely focused on trying to learn new tricks. Also she is very people-oriented.

    She is pretty much fixed on the ground, in terms of respect and attention. We have lots of liberty, obstacles and clicker-trick stuff we do, we can lunge on voice commands (and a flick of the whip on lazy days). The challenge is making the ground lessons carry through to the saddle, and I have been trying things like voice commands and a bit of clicker in the saddle, to make the ideas and the feeling of happy co-operation carry over. If she gives me an outright balk, I can always get off and push her around on the ground (do something a bit harder and faster than I am asking for in the saddle) and then get back on, and sometimes even growling at her “I’m getting off now” will get her to sigh and move forward. Also, having someone on the ground wave a whip or even just their hands at her will make her move if she gets “stuck.”

    Right now, yes, I think it’s a question of work ethic more than outright balking. Work ethic is a good way of putting it. At the moment (it’s hot out) I’ve decided to warm her up as if she’s a 25 year old broken-down lesson string horse, walk and neck flexions and lateral work and then let her do a couple of laps at a slow trot and then push tactfully. Yesterday was muggy and hot, and I expected a struggle, but we actually worked up to some big energetic enthusiastic canter (I was overheated at the end, she wanted to keep going). I feel like every ride, she is testing: on one hand, I think she does want me to make her do things and feel lively and pumped up, but she is also very concerned about whether I am going to over-react and “be mean” and so I have to be tactful about how much I push and how quickly. If I give just the right amount of “ask” she relaxes and basically says, OK, today’s fine. Once she’s warmed up she can be very light and forward. And of course some days she is just in a lively, happy mood from the start.

    However, she does know that when I am in the saddle, she can just shut down and go to another planet, not even buck.That hasn’t happened for a long time (not since I realized I could get off and work her on the ground to break the trance), but she knows it is potentially in her repertoire (I understand mules also have this capability). She would stand there and just squeak/grunt (very pathetic) while I sat there kicking, whipping, whatever. I know the sequence by which I created this problem (pushing her too hard to canter in the arena before she felt balanced enough), though I don’t think it would have happened with another kind of horse, and I feel responsible to work through it and fix her. If I had known more in our first year together when this problem was developing, I wouldn’t have let it get to the point where she learned that a shut-down mule-style tranced-out balk was an effective solution to her problems.

    Of course shut-down balk and bad work ethic both boil down to her not listening to me. But I don’t think they are exactly the same problems. There are days she is low-energy and wants to do a pokey trot, but doesn’t get “stuck” or balk at all, is quite happy to mosey along. Then there are other days she balks, and once she gets over it, is unusually high energy. Balk is about being angry, pokey is about being, well …. lazy. And then there is the stop and stare balk, which isn’t angry so much as just forgetting I am even there. That is easier to deal with, because she is still awake, she hasn’t shut down. And there are days she is perfectly fine, steps out lively and listens to me from the get-go.

    Interesting, when we do attended turnout in the big outdoor ring, some days (cold, windy) she takes off flying. But other days, she will just stand there like a lump, until you chase her a bit. Then she will get going and have a huge run and buck and stop and spin field day until she is dripping sweat. So even in turnout, she sometimes needs a push. And of course some days in turnout she has no “juice” at all, even if her buddies are running full-out laps around the ring.

    • You might be missing a signal before she shuts down. If you can identify it, then you can change her mind BEFORE she shuts down. Problem is then easily solved.

      You might also try journalling to see if you can peg the reason for the behaviour changes. While some horses can be less consistent in behavior than others, for the most part horses are super consistent. Are you working her at different times of day? How close to meal time is it? Or has she just eaten? Is there a positive change with more work, or less work? Is there a relationship to her cycling? Etc…

    • look at her feed, balance of minerals, issues with cycles. Some mares can have some pain or discomfort as they come into season.

      Even if you think your saddle fits, try getting Dave Genadek’s saddle fit tape from and see if you have some issues. If she is being pinched by her tree just a little she may be reluctant to move, then move too ‘quick’ once she starts going. I likened my old mare to a phrase from an old Alabama song,” I’m in a hurry and I don’t know why”, until I found out her saddle didn’t fit. Duh on me. Most saddles, even saddles fit by professional saddlers, leave something to be desired in the way of fit because in the US there is a lack of good tree makers, and even fewer people who understand all the ways in which the tree must fit. On my late and very stocky downhill app, I found that I had to have a 38cm tree which is beyond any standard saddle. Finally found a good value german made saddle, appropriately called a Deutsche, that came ready made in extra wide widths. Stock horses can be foolers to people used to fitting warmbloods and tb type horses.

      And you seem to have good instruction, but make sure that your seat is not the problem, I know you’ve mentioned your journey to better teachers and better form, but some horses are more sensitive to a seat position that whispers stop instead of go.

      Also, see how she goes on grass or softer footing compared to the ring, it could be a foot issue. Subtle imbalances can really affect some horses when other horses seem to be able to ignore an inch difference.

      That isn’t to say she doesn’t need to be told in no uncertain terms that go is the only option, but if strong aids aren’t working and you feel you are being consisten in applying them, keep digging in the toolbox.

      • Yes, after our last ride, I think actually she is having some ouch in her feet. She came in from spending the summer on dry dirt and sand, back to hog fuel and a rainy spell, and the soles of her feet are definitely softer. She can feel it on hard pack, thinks about it on sand trails and maybe, yes, is still feeling it at some level in the hog fuel arena. If she gets excited, she will blast away and ignore it, but if it’s a normal ho-hum day she is very self-protective.

        About Dave Genadek’s tapes: I’ve seen them discussed on line, but do they discuss English saddles or just Western ones? Although Paint Mare has a big barrell and wide loin, she doesn’t have a wide or low withers. She has seemed OK with the County jump saddle I’ve been using since the Spring, and she has had strong opinions about badly-fitting saddles in the past.

        And yes, I do keep a training/riding journal, it’s been very valuable in working through stuff with her and identifying triggers. We’ve definitely made progress year over year, but it doesn’t always feel like that day to day.

        • I think Genadek concentrates on principles that apply about where a saddle should fit, ie, along the muscles each side of the spine between withers and last thoracic rib, with enough room not to pinch the shoulder or withers, a channel over the spine, and balanced so that the pocket where the rider sits is flat and level. He used western saddles mostly, though he addresses some issues of english saddles. He also does webisode classroom discussions if you want to sign up and ask questions. I’d watch the tape and aborb the lessons there first. He also has hints on how to make a saddle fit better (presuming its not pinching someplace).

          I had the widest Albion dressage saddle for my App, he outgrew it. He wasn’t particularly high or low withered, what he did was have enormous breadth between his shoulders and developed a very broad double back muscle structure. Sounds like your mare, wider saddle.

          Fire was so expressive about his saddle fit you could always tell when he wasn’t happy with the placement, width or type of girth. When the saddler came when I was looking for the replacement of the Albion, she didn’t believe me that a 15h 1″ app could need something wider than the Albion, and she insisted on bringing some narrower saddles with her. She, at my insistence tried the wider saddle first, Fire was in a grooming stall in cross ties, he stands quietly, doesn’t move a muscle. She looks at it, checks fit under saddle flaps, etc, and says, seems to be a good fit, but lets try the narrower one. Swaps saddles, doesn’t even cinch it, and Fire starts crow hopping in place and tail is doing 360’s. She takes off narrower saddle, puts wider one back on, Fire is perfectly still again. If most horses would speak up as loudly as Fire, humans would catch on more quickly.

  20. Western Pleasure. Nothing drives me more insane than watching these horses shuffle along at a “jog” slower than a natural walk and the 4 beat canter than places every time!!!! Oh, and lets not forget about the constant jabbing that the riders do to their poor horse’s face when the judge’s back is turned.

  21. OK, a pet peeve. Instructors who tell their absolute beginner students to give the horse a “nice big kick” to move off at a walk. I was in the vicinity of an instructor doing a lead-line very first intro with a young girl on an old horse, a situation where you could ask the kid to use proper leg pressure and then compensate by moving the horse along from the ground. And her instructions from the very first are “nice big kick.” I have also seen this instructor let kids sit and kick that mare for minutes at a time, with no effect (to either walk off or to trot), when a tap with the crop, or a tap from the ground from the instructor would break the cycle and get the horse moving.

    • I’ll second that! I am one of those isntructors who ‘supports’ the beginner riders’ efforts without comment. The riders ‘do it right’ and I help it happen – within reason.

      I had one of my little students come back recently from a week-long horse-y day camp. (Happened to be Western: I told her parents I had no problem with her riding Western – at this point any time spent of the back of a horse is to the good) She was all pumped up that she could ‘do’ a few new things. I wasn’t clear on what she was describing to me as she groomed so I suggested she show me once we had the pony warmed up.

      She got on my little saint of a mare and WHOMP the kicking starts! No ask-tell-demand. No giving the horse a chance to respond before upping the ‘volume’. Just straight to WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP. Legs flying. The mare is 25 years old, experienced, smart, tolerant, semi-retired and fat. Oh: and she is a Morgan. Mare looks at me, heaves a big sigh and moseys off to the rail. Several WHOMPS later her tolerance was wearing thin. Mare’s nose was wrinking, ears were hinting at going back, her head was coming up and she was telegraphing to me that she was going to show this kid just what FAST could be if she did not quit being so rude. Kid was about to be introduced to canter. (Just for the record: I was correcting the little Miss after each whomp. It persisted a bit.)

      The other thing she was so pumped about showing me was that she could ‘spin’ the horse from a standstill by hauling on one rein, while WHOMPING with both legs. Uh, yeah…we stopped that one in the bud. I re-explained the eyes-leg-hand sequence and also how merely hauling a horse’s head to her knee was not actually correct. The crux of the problem being that she did get some response from the mare and I am sure at the camp she was praised for her effectiveness .

      The kid is 7 years old. She did argue with me: it is tough to argue with ‘success’, even with most adults. “It worked, so why is it wrong?” *SIGH*

  22. Not giving a horse a chance to figure something out. I hate it. My mare gives a little dance to asses the ground before stepping off a trailer, for example, and when someone says to pull her out because no one has time for that, I verbally remove their face.

    “Natural Horsmanship” as a term. Nothing about horsemanship is natural. The only natural way for us to be with horses is to chase them with spears and then gnaw on them.

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