Exercises to put you in the ‘Zone’ – lateral work on a circle


One thing that we all seek is the calm attention of our horses but so often outside distractions can cause us to lose it. At the week-end I was working with a client who was experiencing just this and today again Chapiro, a little spooked by horses leaving the yard, had calm literally hanging by a thread!

One thing that really doesn’t help (in fact makes it worse) is forcing the horse to face his demons, unless you allow plenty of space between him and the distraction he is unlikely to want to turn and look at it; indeed he is hard wired not to look before he has put some space between him and the offending object. The other thing that isn’t an option is doing nothing – devil, idle hands and all that!

Something that helps Chapiro is lateral work patterns this one was particularly helpful today.

If you missed my Spring newsletter the question regarding circle riding will help to set up this exercise and can be found at the end  of the newsletter –http://www.creativeequinetraining.com/my_news.html

So bearing in mind the four points of the circle and how we ride between them try riding between the first two circle points in shoulder-in, the second two in countershoulder-in and then back to shoulder-in for the third and counter shoulder-in for the fourth.

If you are confirmed in travers you can then add in a section of travers and the same with renvers. Ultimately the exercise can become:

  • shoulder-in
  • counter shoulder-in
  • travers
  • renvers

You can ride them in any order just be aware of keeping soft inside bend, maintaining the shoulder and hindleg connection so that the exercise engages the brain and the body!

If you change rein after two circles then why not add in a giravolta or turn on the forehand to change the rein and as you advance to more complex floorplans add in reinback before the change of rein.

I use this exercise in walk but it is equally as good in trot.

Ride between each circle point with soft inside bend to create your perfect circle. Add in lateral movements shoulder-in, counter-shoulder-in, travers and renvers to supple the body and relax the mind.

Changing Posture Using Gymnastic Training


Moralejo is square! Not that he hates to have fun just that he is short in height and length. His natural way of going is right down there on his forehand as shown in this first ‘photo or right up in the air building underneck muscle.



To change the posture of a horse without gadgets that force them into a new position takes a little creative training. Using transitions, lateral work, hills and poles can help create a posture that keeps the back supple, develops the abdominal muscles and allows the pelvis to tilt, the hind joints flex and the area in front of the wither rise.


Here, with very little help from me, he is changing his frame, learning to carry himself in order to be able to step over poles. Transitions helped the process along with laterally bending him and using neck massages to keep his neck soft and free from tension.

Teaching reinback from light cues and blending it with lateral work and transitions between halt, walk and trot gets the pelvis tilting and the posture lighter still…

Trudi @ www.creativeequinetraining.com

Selling Out?



I consider myself extremely lucky to be around during a period of prolific information sharing; never have so many novel facts been made available via books, DVD’s, social media updates, blogs and forums. Does this mean we have a plethora of new age horsewomen/men who can all ride in balance and enjoy perfect relationships with their unshod, bit-free horses?

Joking aside I think we may even be moving further from the perfect goal where the majority of equine interactions are good for the horse. There are, of course, many reasons for this but here I’m thinking of the confusion that surrounds the new horsemanship gurus that promise anything from reading your horse’s mind to talking equus. I will even include my own pet novel training tool of clicker training in this but there are literally hundreds of different systems popping up constantly and I’m really not singling out any one system for special attention here. Is it really possible for us mere mortals to go from no knowledge to full knowledge in short timescales? Is the promise of new found expertise too good to be true or can we really throw out the old methods in favour of the new?

I can’t really be the judge of this but I do know how easy it was to be seduced by the novel system of clicker training for horses when I first became aware of it. I also know that without some really decent previous horsemanship behind me the clicker would have at best been useless at worst dangerous; it’s why I now rarely teach the use of clicker unless there is a huge commitment to learning from the student.

Just a couple of days ago after a lunge lesson with a student I found myself catching up with my past. Let me explain. Whilst I truly believe in positive reinforcement methods I first believe in crystal clear communication whether that is via positive reinforcement or not. The only thing I cannot abide is punishment of a horse for doing what a horse does naturally; there are no bad horses just horses for whom communication has been unclear in the past. I live in the real world and if I hope to improve communication for horses then it needs to be in a digestible format that more traditional riders and trainers can accept and adopt. The reason for the déjà vu? Well I was teaching exactly the way I did 15 years ago, no chance of reaching for my clicker this was purely classical positioning for the handler and giving the horse praise for offering the right answer or at least an approximation of it.

So did I feel like I sold out? Absolutely not. Did I feel like I missed an opportunity to promote positive reinforcement? No because we discussed other methods including clicker which was something quite new for the student and who knows when sown seeds will germinate?

So whilst more positive reinforcement is my long term goal I truly feel that we must adapt and grow rather than preach and put off. Or as the saying goes slowly, slowly catchee monkey!



Come On Baby Light My Fire

Chaps yawn

Are horses innately interested in learning? Would they prefer to eat grass and mooch around all day or do they derive some pleasure from learning a task?
What’s in it for the horse and how can we awaken their curiosity sufficiently to enable the process of learning?

Should we know the answers to these questions or doesn’t it matter? As the controller of our horses is it fair to demand things without payback?

I guess we all like to think that our horses enjoy their training with us but is that a delusional viewpoint and one that we use in a self-serving capacity to justify our ownership and training of horses?

I think that’s enough questions to answer in one blog post, many of you humans won’t even read beyond the opening paragraphs without incentive so I think we can see how hard it is to pique the interest of an equine!

Problem solving isn’t exactly a natural gift for a herbivore like the horse, detecting subtle changes on the horizon and running from them as fast as they can is, however, a very innate behaviour. On the plus side horses are very good at making associations between things and after enough repetition they will consolidate an association such that this learned task will not be forgotten.

If we want to engage our horses in the learning process we first need  to offer choice. A problem is potentially resolvable if they have a choice of solutions but not too many choices, ideally only two. Personally I prefer not to reward or punish the ‘undesired’ choice unless it is a danger to the horse or human but instead handsomely reward the ‘desired’ choice.

Make the steps in learning very small; smaller than we (who know what the task requires) can begin to imagine. Take the training of a halt cue as an example. We know that the task requires the horse to stop moving all for feet for a period of at least a few seconds; the horse does not! So praise and reward for the merest thought of engaging the brain to focus on the task would be beneficial as a starting point. As a clicker training the preference is to do this at liberty and just casually ‘pick up’ behaviours as they happen…more on that in a future post. No matter what your choice of training method the breaking it down to crumb size is part of setting up for success, manage your expectations and you will forever be rewarded.

We humans are easily distracted by external stimuli even when the subject we should be studying is relatively interesting.It ‘s all too easy to respond to a sudden stimulus like the offer of a cuppa or the dog barking. Horses are no different but remember they aren’t even that engaged in the learning task to begin with so our ability to pique their curiosity hangs by a thin thread!
So we must create a calm learning environment and in time engage them sufficiently to foster the learning habit.


Breaking down the learning into particle size, creating a calm learning environment and offering clear choice as described are certainly part of the route to success but the greatest addition to these is the creation of winners! No I haven’t decided to re-enter the world of competition I’m talking of winners in terms of us being able to say ‘YES, you got that right’ to our horses. If, like me, the embarrassment of getting a question wrong has struck you nervously dumb then you’ll understand the importance of being able to say YES. If we stop to consider the particle size of choice and the clarity of the choices on offer then it becomes obvious that to engage our horses in the learning process we must set them up for success, YES must be easy, not hard. Incredibly once a horse has learned the association of YES with a task it begins to blossom and offer behaviours more willingly in answer to new tasks and choices; that’s definitely a win/win situation.

When you next arrive at the field gate to take your horse off on a journey of joyous learning don’t be disappointed that he doesn’t canter over and stuff his head into the head-collar;unless that’s one of his learned behaviours of course. Horses can and do learn, innately governed or acquired does it matter? For me the bottom line is that my horses feel safe with me and the stimulating environment that I put them into, if they have a heightened sense of pleasure because of this process then that’s even better!