Accountability and Perspective

Does this sound familiar? My horse did this, and he didn’t do that, and I had a terrible ride today. Insert your scenario into “this” and “that” to complete the picture.
So why did your ride really go south? I believe the majority of the time, that “bad ride” is really our fault. I know that is hard to swallow, but I believe that to be the truth so hear me out.
I used to be that girl that would complain about my horse. How he did this, and he didn’t do that, but you know what, I blamed him for all of the things I could have done better and all of the things that I did not adequately prepare him to do. It takes a long time to build a real relationship with our horses and to understand their needs. Ask yourself, “What does he need from me so that he can do his job, and we can dance together?” This answer will vary from horse to horse, but you get my drift.
Our horses rely on us to teach them the ways of being a trusty mount. They have to learn how to do all of the things that we ask of them. Have we fully prepared them mentally and physically to do what we ask? Did your horse have previous owners? If so, what baggage did he bring into the relationship? What baggage have you brought into the relationship from your previous experiences? It takes years to train a horse, and even longer for our training. We must work on ourselves so that we may help our horses.
Please, for the love of God, stop blaming your horse, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and change your perspective. Rather than complaining about the “bad ride,” try to figure out why you think it was bad in the first place. Did you let your bad day at work ruin your ride at the barn? Was your ride bad simply because it did not go the exact way you had pictured it or was it something else? Ask yourself what your horse needs from you and what he is trying to teach you. Try to see it all as a learning experience rather than good and bad rides. Every time you interact with your horse, you are either training him or un-training him.
It is essential to have someone you can check in with who is farther along in their equestrian journey than you are, someone who can help you see what you and your horse need to work on to make things easier and better for both of you. I recommend finding a highly educated instructor to help you and your horse work through your issues (and I do mean YOUR issues…LOL). All jokes aside, I know that sometimes our horses can be little turds, and I also know that sometimes they need to see a vet. Spending time with your horse and getting to know him will help you to know the difference. If you are either unable to get to or unable to afford a trainer, Cody’s mentor, Dominique Barbier, has some great books to read as well as DVD’s to help you on your journey. Dressage for the New Age is a great start.
CH Equine is here to help you and your horse. We offer clinics in and out of state, horse training, seminars, and weekly lessons. We would love to help you and your horse build trust and understanding so that you may have a wonderful partnership.
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Outside the Sandbox

Most of us enjoy riding outside the arena. But, for many horses, this can be a scary thing. Many riders simply choose not to take their horse out of the arena for fear of their own safety and or their horse’s safety.
Here is a tip to help you know when your horse is ready to leave the arena.
Consistency is very important. When you leave the arena or even go to a new place (arena or not), the first several times out, you will most likely lose 30-50% of your horse’s consistency/training/focus. So, if your horse is only 60% consistent with his exercises in the arena and you lose 50% of their consistency, you are now sitting on a horse that is 30% trained. A horse that is only 30% trained is not a safe horse in a controlled environment, let alone out in an open space with the wind in their mane.
If you have a horse that is 80% consistent, you will lose around 30% rather than 50% leaving you with a horse that is 56% consistent which is much better than 30%. As your horse gains more exposure and experience, the percent they lose will be less.
Calm and Lazy horses can fool you into thinking that their temperament will keep you/them safe. This is only true if nothing ever spooks them or makes them excited. Which will eventually happen at some point with every horse. It is that moment you will be wishing you had more consistency and training with your horse, but at that moment it is too late for you.
I am not saying you have to have a highly trained horse before you can ride outside of the arena, but your horse needs to have a high level of consistency within the level he is at. Be patient with your timing of when to start riding out and start with short rides in areas where your horse will be more comfortable and with as few distractions as possible.
Stay safe, and have fun with your horse.


We have all been there. You’re at a gathering, and you are with a group of friends. There is one person who just keeps talking and talking. You cannot get a word in edgewise. Do you do this to your horse? Talk and talk and direct and give him no room to communicate back?
Your horse has things to say. Perhaps he does not tell you in words, but if you are “listening,” he does have something to say. Our horses are happy to partner with us and work side by side if there is an open door of communication.
I am going to back up a few weeks. I was riding in a clinic with my husband, Cody Harrison, who is a wonderful man and teacher. Anyhow, I got my horse, Louie, out of his stall to start getting him ready for the clinic. He was being weird, a little spooky, and he jerked when I touched his pole on the left side. I thought about saddling Bell instead but, I wrote it off. It is a joke around my barn that I ride a man-mare. Meaning my gelding acts more like a mare than a gelding. So, I just figured he was being grouchy as usual, but my gut was telling me maybe I really should ride Bell. Anyhow, what I wanted to do got the best of me. I had the worst ride I’d ever had on him. He argued with me the entire clinic. It was horrible. I left the clinic frustrated with him and at myself.
Fast forward a few days, and our friend Pam was out to do some bodywork on a few of our horses. Louie being on of them. Pam told me he was out in the pole. Oh man, do I feel like a jerk. Why didn’t I just trust my gut? He argued the whole time because he was uncomfortable, and I just figured he was being a man-mare. I clearly had some apologizing to do. I told Louie that I was so very sorry for not listening to him and that I would be better.
Fast forward to the present day. I have had several beautiful rides on Louie over multiple days in a row. Man, does that feel good!!! Finally getting some consistency.
Louie is a wonderful guy. He has a big heart, is super athletic, and is very sensitive, but his window of acceptance is very small. If you do not have him exactly where he needs to be (the correct contact, and on the bit), he will argue with you like a teenager. That said, Louie arguing means one of two things, I do not have him where he needs to be, or he is uncomfortable. If I am sure I am asking nicely and correctly and he is still arguing it is the later of the two. This is just one example of why it is so important to know your horse and to listen to him and try to understand him, and also why it is so essential to work on yourself to be better at listening. That may mean meditating in your car to your favorite jams before entering the barn. Don’t carry your baggage with you. Leave it in your car. It’s hard to “hear” when the rest of life is yelling in your head.
I love Louie and am so excited to continue to grow in partnership with him. There is so much more to be learned on our journey.

Change is Hard

Change is hard!!! It is hard to mentally accept that there is another way of doing things with your horse. Not to mention muscle memory just makes things happen the way you have trained yourself to do it.
When you have been doing things a certain way with your horse for so long, it is easy to not think about doing it another way. Especially if what you are doing is working. If you are used to holding the horse in a position with solid rein contact and constantly pushing with your leg, and you get the movement that you want, why would you change? Perhaps there is an easier way of doing things for both you and your horse mentally and physically. The goal in the art of riding is to do less and less as a rider and yet have the horse be willing to perform the movements happily on his own.
Many people get stuck in their thinking. For instance, if I don’t use my leg like this, he won’t move sideways or go forward. If I don’t hold him with my hands, he will not stay round. With this way of thinking, your horse will get heavier and heavier to the aids. Thus, making it harder and harder for both of you. It is a lot of work always to be kicking the horse to go forward. Not to mention, your horse will eventually become dull or resistant to all of that pressure.
If you make the conscious decision not to pull and hold or to not constantly use the leg, then you will have to find another way. In searching for this new way, you and your horse have another chance to find lightness and partnership with one another.

When to Progress

It is important to know when to take the next step in your horse’s training. Most riders try to advance their horse before he is ready. If the horse is not educated in the basic movements, he will not be able to perform what is being asked of him well enough and/or with consistency.
Advancing the horse before he is ready will lead to a handful of problems: resistance, confusion, loss of confidence, stiffness, and potential injury. On the same note, if you do not advance your horse when he is ready, you will bore him, and he can become frustrated with the same exercises and possibly become pushy.
Knowing the next step in your horse’s training is imperative. You need to know where to go in your training from where you currently are. Most riders know where they want to end up with their horse. They want to be able to Piaffe, perform flying changes, do sliding stops, or jump four feet fences. However, they lack the knowledge of what the training steps are to get there. Often, riders start trying to perform the goal maneuver.
Training upper-level movements does not start with teaching the maneuver. It begins with other movements that build-up to the goal. You start with much more basic moves that teach the horse how to balance himself and build strength. The basics also teach the horse the aids. When your horse is ready for the more advanced maneuvers, and they have achieved the building steps with success, then you can move to the next maneuver confidently, with a good foundation.


Self-carriage is often spoken of in many equestrian disciplines and is of great importance for our equine partners.  What is self-carriage?  Simply put; it means that the horse is able to sustain his position with minimal support from the rider.

One of the greatest gifts a rider can give the horse is to stay out of his way.  Once the horse gives the rider the correct response, their reward is the release of the pressure.  If the pressure returns to the horse, it tells him that he needs to return to where he was or to change his position. 

It is important to remember that self-carriage is not a position in its self, but the result of the horse’s understanding of the aids for the asked position or movement. There are many training stages in order for the horse to become collected.  Self-carriage needs to be at each training stage before advancing to the next. 

The majority of people think of self-carriage as a horse maintaining a beautiful frame as it moves around the area.   Self-carriage should not only be in the position of the horse but in the movements themselves. When performing a shoulder-in, the horse should not only maintain a good frame while doing should-in, but the shoulder-in should be maintained by the horse as well. Just like the rider gives the horse the aids to shorten their frame and to collect themselves, they give the aids for should-in. Once the aids are given, and the horse does what is asked, the rider then lightens the aids and allows the horse to continue with a minimal amount of support.  The horse should continue the shoulder-in until the rider gives another aid to change the movement. 

When your horse learns to carry himself in a balanced manner and is responsive to your aids, you will truly be able to sit relaxed on your horse and enjoy the ride!