Root cause

Mark Paradies has a great definition of this title; The most basic cause ( causes ) that can  reasonably be identified and that management has control to fix and, when fixed, will prevent ( or significantly reduce the likelihood of ) the problem’s recurrence. This can apply to any situation, I am using this in terms of behavioral problems in horses.

These  are just a few of the major behavior / riding problems ….and possible root cause problems.  Some horses do have undesirable characteristics, (just like people) and we need to find the correct approach to gain their confidence, trust, and willingness to become an ideal horse.

  • Spooking = Discomfort, boredom, unconditioned mentally and physically.  Improper riding techniques.
  • One sided = Pain, inverted rotation, unconditioned physically. Improper training/ riding techniques, including no introduction of ambidextrous use in initial training foundation.
  • Bucking=Discomfort anywhere, including mouth. Improper training/ riding techniques, self defense of situation being asked.
  • Rearing= Discomfort, ” stuck ” from improper force of head position, making it impossible to move hind legs forward correctly
  • Bolting= Discomfort causing flight response,  horse learning to lean or push on bit causing contraction (stiffening of back muscles ) making it hard to properly slow horse down.

How can we properly fix these horses?

We cannot look at the big picture of the behavior. We need to look at the possible       root cause of the problem.

  1.     Your horse needs to be healthy and thriving. Feeding good quality hay, providing turnout, fresh water and a good deworming program is a priority. An unhealthy horse cannot completely offer themselves mentally or physically. An exercise program that strengthens and conditions is a benefit for horses of all ages. We do not see walking around the store as exercise compared to a workout at the gym. Developing the horse athletically and correctly provides a horse that loves to be ridden. Just as exercise is an important part of overall health in humans.
  2. Good Veterinarian / Farrier care. Horses need their teeth floated regularly. Even if your horse is at a proper weight and does not drop feed,  with all behavior issues, check the teeth first for sharp edges or decay.  Healthy, balanced feet is obviously a necessity.
  3. Tack fitting. A horse can only tolerate so much pinching or rubbing, they are not machines and will eventually speak their mind.

4. Proper Knowledge. Example: Your horse has become one sided, will only take one lead and refuses to bend the direction of unwilling lead. If they have become inverted right, the muscles will become built up on left side of spine causing the muscle to brace against rotation to the left. This improper muscle development makes it physically impossible to take the left lead or properly bend left, etc.


If you rush your horse fast forward with it’s nose at knees, you are causing major dysfunction of the back muscles, not strengthening. Working the horse at his natural cadence, with slight flexion of poll, neck relaxed at level of wither promotes correct muscle development.  This eventually develops muscle to carry the poll as highest point.



This is important as it lifts the weight of forehand and allows the front legs to propel the horse upwards, engaging and strengthening hind legs for accelerating and decelerating.  Long rein breaks are important at all three gaits to invite self carriage, without any force from riders hands.

Maximum output from horse with minimum effort from rider allows the horse to learn in the “moment” reward. The reward is the rider sitting quietly and providing the horse with the comfort they will always seek.  Make your training program benefit the horses physique.  A healthy fit horse that thrives with appropriate training methods becomes the art of true Horsemanship.


IMG_3367 - Edited


Mr. Misunderstood

I met this cute horse around six years ago. He was very well taken care of but had some behavior problems. Would not stand tied for grooming, tacking up, bucked at canter, just all around unhappy horse and owner. When you have spent your entire life learning about and being around horses, you still don’t know everything but you do know how to identify behavior. This horse was not comfortable with anything anyone wanted to do with him. I was asked to evaluate him. I start with observing whole horse, then feet, then movement, etc. ( any evaluation for behavior needs to first have the vet check all health aspects ) I personally felt his shoes were too small for his large hooves, we changed that. Next comes saddle fitting. The bars of her western saddle were too tight and definitely caused pinching. Quarter horses tend to be built with a low wither and wide shoulders. There are special saddles designed for Quarter horses,  “Quarter horse bar ” Nice wide fit.

Thankfully, she had a saddle with a wider bar. Next comes bit fitting and then lunging to watch the horses gaits. Then if owner is not fearful, I ask to see them ride. She was a beginner wearing extra large western spurs, she used a curb bit which she held a tight contact like a snaffle. The horse reared and bucked, he looked like a rocking horse. He seemed super confused, most horses are kind and could really harm you if they wanted to. I rode him and oh my goodness, turns out whoever had trained and rode this horse did an amazing job. I was beyond impressed at how I only needed my weight to turn and barely any rein to stop, he was so sensitive, so impressive. She had acquired a wonderful horse but just needed some lessons to correctly communicate with him. Money was a problem for her but we worked out a plan as money was a problem for me as well. She was doing well, I am very particular on creating balance in rider and horse. She was wooed by a trainer that offered free lessons and low priced training. I was so heart broke, especially when I had to watch him being rushed on the lunge line with his head forced into tight side reins. This horse learned to submit, he was not going to fight. When horses are worked with the same daily routine, head forced in, rushed forward, they begin to develop protective muscles to compensate the abnormality of movement. Correct training develops muscles that enhance elasticity, stamina, and strength.  When pushing an athlete, they are no longer developing muscle but are actually turning the muscle off, this is called muscle fatigue. At first, the workout seems great but then muscle fiber becomes inefficient. When the horse is flexed correctly and trained at their natural IMG_36351cadence, muscles can work more efficiently.img_36325b15d.jpgIMG_36271Interval training is important for both mind and body. The horse needs a recovery from the same routine, muscle fiber begins to break down and needs to recover and rebuild. IMG_2706%5b1%5d

I came into contact with this horse again as the owner was selling him. He had become slightly lame on his left hind and still showed signs of unhappy behavior. I took him and began his motion therapy. The incorrect muscling he had developed in his daily routines of improper methods had created an inverted rotation of the vertebrae. You could feel him throw your weight left and could not bend right. Simple gymnastic exercises were necessary to create proper function. Re educating a horse requires knowledge. The muscle memory likes to stay dysfunctional but is continually developed with proper workouts. He is a wonderful trail horse and enjoys his work.20180106_143722(0)

” Wellness is not soundness ”  – Jean Luc Cornille


I felt compelled to write regarding the latest incident in the Dressage world. Several weeks ago at the Adequan Westcoast Dressage Festival a rider was allowed to compete at the Intermediare I level, who clearly was not prepared to compete at this level, or really any level! However, I think enough has been said regarding this particular rider. What a horrifying experience to witness, I am surprised someone wasn’t screaming ” please, please stop! ” It is the reality of the world we live in. Greed, wealth, and desire for fame and ribbons has taken over. It seems that some changes have occurred since this incident. One is, no more live streaming. Does that protect the horse? No, it protects the abusive rider from getting insulted. This incident showed all forms of evil in a mad world. People were insulting the rider physically while others were defending her with ” maybe she was having a bad day.” There is no excuse, ever. We need to ensure our safety with such large animals but this horse was not placing anyone in danger.

I was giving a lesson recently to a new client. The rider was all out kicking her horse bluntly with a spur. I stood there for a moment as I had not had to witness spur jabbing during a lesson before. I spoke up, ” can you please not do that with your spur, your horse is going to get upset, he doesn’t understand. ” Then I asked her to remove the spurs and not wear them again, especially in my lesson. I was not asked to come back. I think of the horse often, and how some horse owners do not see these actions as abusive. I have also witnessed a trainer tying a horses head to a truck hitch to teach it to yield to pressure. I stopped working at that barn, I did not want to be associated with those methods. In hindsight, I should have held the trainer accountable. Not starting a confrontation but simply, ” Isn’t there a better way, why are you submitting the horse to this method?” Horses need to be taught what is acceptable or not acceptable with their behavior, the same goes for trainers using barbaric methods or worse, telling a rider they are” awesome”, basically closing their eyes and taking the clients money.  Horses shut down mentally in order to endure situations. It is an amazing defense mechanism that humans have as well. Victims of domestic violence have to be re trained to ” free their thoughts and become aware of feelings, it is a scary process to begin to feel.”  The eye of a shut down horse is like a shark, unemotional. Once the horse is being re conditioned, their eye becomes softer. This takes time, patience, and consistency. I have found the Ttouch to be most effective for awareness. Shutting down mind also results in shutting down body. Muscle tenseness is also a defense mechanism. Over time, these will have a result on the horses overall health and well being. I love helping horses, it is my passion.

There is a lack of riding schools teaching a good foundation for strength and balance in the saddle as well as understanding how the horse physique works. Everyone wants to be a master these days. You can you tube anyone teaching or training ,even if it’s completely inappropriate training methods. Be careful what you choose to study. Preserve always the beauty of the horse. Speak up about what concerns you ,but do not join in on bashing. Hold yourself accountable to how you are riding, what you are pursuing and if you have any doubt about your trainers methods, ask why they believe that will help the horses potential.

I once attended a ride a test clinic, the educator is a well known trainer and Judge. One rider entered the arena performing her third level Dressage test. The clinician immediately stopped the rider and asked who told her she was ready for that level, or why did she feel she should be competing at that level. That was so awesome, humbling for the rider and her trainer I am sure, but the instructor spoke for the horse. This trainer held them accountable by standing up for the horse, not closing her eyes and taking their money. I am part of the continued education of Science of Motion. We have a private discussion forum, the rule of the forum is we do not discuss or Judge the methods of others. If anything is posted to comment on the work of others ,it is taken down. This is not turning your back on disaster, it is arming riders with education to better themselves and hopefully others through example or instruction. The more riders are willing to provide themselves with bio mechanic knowledge of the horse , choosing empathetic trainers,


Invitation, not force


Pure joy in developing a partnership

and avoiding barbaric methods, the more we can do for the horse world. Are you actually impressed when someone makes their horse lie down and then stands on it’s neck or rib cage? Please go with your intuition of sadness and hold yourself accountable for desiring that. “The riders knowledge is the horses ultimate protection ”   – Jean Luc Cornille


The incredible focus between Steffen and a clinicians horse

Not everyone is a champion rider, or born a beautiful rider, you cannot buy your way with Grand Prix horses. Everyone must endure the path of knowledge, commitment and the work it takes to strive for perfect partnership with our horse. One more quote from Jean Luc Cornille which I think is beautiful and absolutely fitting for the where the horse world is headed.

” You might never reach the experience, knowledge, and fame that will make you a Master for the next generations, but you will be at your own level, a Master in your horses heart and that is all that matters.

” Jean Luc Cornille – Fundamental differences.


One’s Trash is Another’s Treasure

It’s amazing that I can still remember the horse that my instructor owned.  I was not allowed to handle her as I was only 9 at the time.  She was a beautiful Hanoverian mare trained in Dressage.  I would just watch in amazement when she would ride “Bellbay”.  It has always been a dream of mine to own a Hanoverian since then.  I have been fortunate enough to ride and train several types of warmbloods over the years, but my love for Hanoverian’s has remained.  However, the breed remained untouchable to me as the demands and prices of them rose.

I am always looking at horses for sale just out of curiosity.  Last summer, I came upon a very affordable Hanoverian mare!  She was being sold as a broodmare due to a lameness issue.  Her bloodlines were elite.  The price was incredible but I was hesitant as when I chose to look at her, all the red flags were there:

1.) The horse could not be caught easily.

2.) The owner was nervous to ride and only rode for a short time.

3.) The owner did not want me to ride.

I requested a video of the horse being ridden previously.  The video showed a beautiful but very tolerant mare being ridden in a lesson.  I say “tolerant” because she was being ridden in a weymouth (curb) with a standing martingale (tie down) to to keep her head in a flexed position.  Please know that I am not speaking with an ego, just in confidence.  I have re-educated enough horses in my life that I have developed an eye for hidden potential.  I purchased the mare.  I began the re-education that was necessary to reduce her lameness and create the mind and body of the athlete I knew she could be.  Her back and neck were tense from having her head forced into a position.  This caused her to develop an inverted rotation in the spine.  Wrong rotation begins to develop wrong muscle memory, which creates lameness.


The horse is allowed to find self-carriage.

My daughter loves to compete and is very good at it.  She has begun to develop a relationship with the mare.  Reassuring her with patience, kindness, and no forceful riding.  This has allowed her to successfully catch the mare.  She is helping with the training in excitement of being able to compete on such a beautiful moving athlete.  My daughter Lizzie has been awarded high scores, which led her to win the USDF region 5 training level championships.  She was competing on her Belgian-paint cross, who is now training at second level.  The training begins with in-hand work to develop correct use of muscles without a forceful position.  Longeing strengthens and develops balance in preparation for the rider.  All of this is introduced using the General Decarpentry method.  I have taught Lizzie the skills of re-educating motion and also the skills of Dressage.  Straightness, balance, and freedom of movement are important in changing the physique of a “damaged” horse.


In-hand, using the Decarpentry Method

Lets look at the definition of Dressage.  It means training in French.  The dictionary defines it as, “The art of riding and training in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance”.  Dressage can come across as a word that defines a certain type of horse and rider.  Let’s always think that Dressage started as bettering the horse.  Mary Twelveponies wrote her book, Everyday Training, Backyard Dressage, in hopes of teaching the everyday rider the fundamentals of using Dressage.

I want to help horses and their riders.  If you are using forceful equipment or


Lizzie working on straightness and balance.

methods to place your horse in a certain frame, please know that you are taking the path of destruction.  Forget the partnership and the love of working together.  The signs will begin to show soon enough, your horse does not look forward to seeing you, the horse begins unpredictable behavior, and even worse, the horse shows up lame.  This horse I have acquired was given up on when she tried to let her previous owner know she could not take the discomfort any longer.  The tolerance level of certain horses makes them continue to please until they are completely broken, in mind and body.  This is a story of a sincere love for horses.  I did not “rescue” her from an abusive home.  I gave this mare who loves to please, a second chance by rescuing her from an uneducated Dressage rider.

“Looking into the eyes of a horse is seeing the soul and purity of life.”   -Unknown    



The end result. A happy, relaxed horse, working towards complete self carriage, with no obvious lameness present. 



The Horses Mind

The horses mind is a place of very protective instincts. They learn at a young age what is good and relaxing and what creates pain. This is why many trainers believe in a  “response ” type stimulation. This is where the horse responds and the trainer relaxes all aids as a reward. This is an awesome portion of training a horse. I say portion because it only trains the mind to respond. To truly bring out a horses full potential, we must also train them the proper coordination of the muscles. This means balance, lightness, self carriage, etc. all come from proper muscle coordination. When riders accept their horse without proper flexion, bending, cadence, etc. because they are too focused on a ” response ” they miss out on creating an ideal partnership as well as creating a functional athlete.

Response is what we need at the beginning but we eventually have to paint a bigger picture. Horses, like humans, have very strong central pattern generators. This means that they can become very set in their ways of movement, believing they are protecting themselves from pain. Their minds become very set in believing they need to protect themselves from danger. A well educated trainer will work with the horses mind and body to create an ideal trusting partnership. I love re- educating horses. The only way to successfully “fix” lameness or behavioral problems is to focus on changing the horses muscle memory which creates a more relaxed mind. The horses use muscle compensation to protect an area causing pain. Some horses are tolerant of pain created by saddle fitting issues, forced positions, unbalanced riders…other horses are not. The tolerant ones are the ones that will ignore and obey until their physical pain begins to corrupt the sanity of their mind.

I had never quite understood or maybe had never quite studied central pattern generators until I came across one horse in particular. The owners of this Quarter horse had tried everything to fix their bucking horse.  He bucked when saddled ,longed or ridden. They sought help from several vets, trainers, as well as farriers. One vet said his wither was broken, another opinion revealed navicular and ulcers from tight fitting shoes. A final opinion was done at the University where they performed a full body nuclear scan. They determined none of the previous diagnosis were correct. They found three areas of concern in his sacroiliac joint and neck areas. These areas were injected with silicon. As time passed, the horse was losing hair, developing rashes, and showing worse signs of stressful and violent behavior.

I came to see the gelding, it was perfect timing to use my science of motion therapy I had begun studying. He was thin but had tons of free choice hay. He pinned his ears at me when I tried to approached him, he would not let me touch him and then started to bite at his hind legs in anger. It was very odd behavior from the start. His owner loved him and wanted to do whatever possible. No one could explain why the horse behaved so aggressively.  His spine was inverted so badly from muscle compensation ( one side built up higher ) that you felt as though the saddle was slipping left. The owners agreed to let me take him to a facility where I could put him on a strict exercise program of six days per week.  I addressed the muscle memory by using sophisticated movements of Dressage at the walk, then trot, followed by canter work. Focusing on straightness, balance, cadence, correct bending of the spine, and eventually a slight flexion of the poll. The neck cannot be forced in a position, this is how the SI joint became dysfunctional.gabe pic

The owner would come to ride and no one could believe it was the same horse. He had been in consistent training for two months and the owner was ready to get him home. I was to come once or twice per week to check in, the owner was able to continue the exercises on a consistent schedule. This was when the old behavior quickly returned. Emotionally the horse could not change what he thought was a place that created pain. The owners could not take any more time, money or risk to help this horse overcome and change his mind. They did not realize the training methods they were using on this particular horse was creating physical abnormality.  He ended up at a great home where he does not have the pain association with his surroundings. Horses become very set in their minds. We need to carefully train them both mentally and physically. Understand that whatever we may put on their mind, they may not be willing to let go. ” Only a partnership offering ease and comfort to the horse can encourage their brain to further coordinate their body” – Jean Luc Cornilles words. Please pay careful attention to what is being taught to your horse. Training horses without a sound understanding of how their bodies function is ignorant.

” You don’t make him learn. You set it up to allow him to learn. You have to give him that with dignity.  Once you start giving, you won’t believe how much you get back ” -Ray Hunt



Creating an ideal partnership through knowledge

Knowledge is an important part of learning to ride. We can learn about our horses mind’s and how to empower them. We can learn about our horses ” natural ” habitat and believe we are creating a natural environment in our training methods. The best rider’s and trainers are the one’s mastering the horses physique, creating a functional athlete. Studying how they need to be prepared both mentally and physically for the demands of a rider. This goes for any type of riding as it takes a properly functioning horse to create balance. This type of knowledge requires a sincere dedication of learning and understanding how the horse moves bio mechanically and how we can offer the best comfort and ease mentally as well as physically. To rehabilitate a horses mind and muscles that has been allowed to move dysfunctionally takes both skill and patience. We as riders need to understand that it is a slow, concentrated process to get to the finished picture. If we are trying to start with the finished picture of what we think the horse should be, we are missing out on being more than just a passenger on our horses back. Having a knowledge of how we can negatively affect or positively influence the horses movement and balance places us in a unique relationship of unity and intuition. I will dedicate this blog to rider’s in particular refusing to deepen their knowledge and allowing their horses to be forever enslaved to fitting into a system.

“The riders knowledge is the horses ultimate protection”                                                                    
 – Jean Luc Cornille