Identify the behavior Training Part 1

I was asked to train a horse because of his head throwing problem. The horse was to be used as a trail horse but really had no knowledge of trails as he was used for speed events. I was to get him used to the mountain trails and fix the head tossing. He was only six years old which explains the lack of experience with anything at all. The owner insisted I ride with a tie down and also figure out why he bolts up mountains and then sidesteps down them. First thing, check teeth by a veterinarian to assure it wasn’t sharp edges on teeth hitting the bit. He was also on the thin side which can be from teeth, parasites, and lack of feed. If you want the horse to perform well for you and be at it’s best behavior, then you have to take care of it. Ignoring these duties in the care of the horse is poor management and will not ensure a strong relationship with your horse. Native Americans believed the relationship with their horses was a main priority in their training. They depended completely on the horses skills and partnership.

I do not use mechanical gadgets to train so once the teeth were addressed, it was time to help the horse accept the pressure of the bit. This work starts on the ground, then can be transferred under saddle. Once the horse associates anything with pain, you have to be patient and creative to gain their trust. The tie down would have been a way to mask the pain, creating suffering and resentment. Tie downs should not be a training tool to keep the horses head down. Poor fitting hackamores and bosals  can cause head tossing as well.  They can block nasal passages if set too low, the horse is attempting to say they can’t breathe when you pull on the reins. Dismissing your horses behavior as being rude or a jerk and using submissive training methods will never allow you the experience of learning the true character of your horse. Patience is a practice all horse owners should strive for. If your horse is showing signs of resentment like refusing to go forward, refusing to enter the arena, stop and think about what may be happening. Did you leave him sore last ride? Is he bored with circles? Does his saddle fit or is it pinching? Seek to identify the behavior before dismissing as ” My horse is lazy! ” Dangerous behavior should not be tolerated, but make sure your horse isn’t attempting to communicate the reason why.

This particular horse would bolt uphill for a few reasons:

  1. The tie down did not allow him use of head and neck for balance, blocking longitudinal flexion
  2. If horses are out of shape, rushing up hill is actually easier for them than walking
  3. Weak hind leg, stifle pain

The horse would trot sideways downhill for a few reasons:

  1. Lack of balance due to tie down
  2. The horse needs to have proper use of back muscles to balance himself and rider down hills. The tie down creates a stiffening of back muscles that need to be addressed
  3. The hind legs work as a braking and carrying, sore stifles can come from incorrect back muscles. The horse goes sideways to keep from overloading the hind legs, protecting stifle pain.

How to fix the situation

Re educate the incorrect muscle with schooling exercises along with negotiating smaller hills to gain trust and stamina. Longitudinal flexion is allowing the horse full use of moving head and neck forward and back.



Teaching them to yield to slight bit pressure, not brace against it.

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All bonds are built on trust, without it, you have nothing. – Unknown



A Man’s worth depends upon the nobility of his aspirations

It always looks so easy to solve problems by taking the path of least resistance. What looks like the easy road turns out to be the hardest and most cruel. Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965

Dressage practiced correctly is used to gymnastisize any horse in any type of riding. Suppling exercises were created as a benefit to self carriage, lightness and obedience. (Yes, I would like a 1200 lb. Animal to respond to what I ask ) Horses that are balanced and light are  not only athletic , but easier to ride. These horses present themselves as noble, and beautiful.




Carl Hester-The horse magazine


Just as it takes a dancer to slowly develop strength and balance, the same goes for

the horse, in all disciplines.


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 “One often demands things that the horses are not capable of doing in a desire to push them too fast and teach them too much. These excessive demands make them hate exercise, strains and tires their sinews and tendons, upon whose elasticity suppleness depends and often these horses end up ruined when it is believed that they have been trained. Thus, no longer having the strength to fight back, they obey, but without grace or any spirit. “

         —– François Robichon de La Guérinière (1688–1751) was a French riding master who had a profound effect on accepted methods for horse training, and one of the most influential writers on the art of Dressage.


I am sincerely heartbroken when I see a following of yanking the horses head this way and that to ” soften ” and then adding a tiny yank on the bit to be sure the horse “understood ” softening to pressure. Is this where we have come to in our desire to achieve ” partnership ?” To me the horse seems confused, like yanking someone to go somewhere but not actually communicating where you are taking them. This is a very popular training method, even being taught to young riders. I need to speak up about it, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Focusing on the placement or ” feel ” of the horses neck creates a false sense of softness to the bit. There is a whole spine there surrounded by important muscles that need to be addressed. Horses are so tolerant to what we think is beautiful. Horses as well as young riders are very intelligent and can absorb the education of correctly balancing a horse, learning to prepare the horse for something as simple as halt with body nuances, creates comfort for both horse and rider.



Moving on to the misuse of the curb now appearing everywhere. If you have a strong contact on the shanks in order to create a softening or placement of the horses head, you are actually inviting the horse to set his head on the bit, bracing his back and causing abnormal gait movement.



Lots of treats after showing example of misuse of  bit with shanks


self carriage and comfort


Absolute beautiful picture of elegance. This takes time to develop and create, take the time it takes


Your going to need a bigger bit because you are taking shortcuts that appear to work but it is a false feeling of lightness and the horse will lean and push on that bit more and more until he has learned to contract his back every time you place pressure on the bit. Tug of war begins and he will win or submit and eventually have lameness or sacroiliac problems. I am not a beautiful rider that has won awards and trophies but I have studied the bio mechanics of the horse and I can honestly claim to have helped many horses that presented behavior or lameness issues. I have also taught many young riders to learn how to properly coordinate and balance the horse with quiet dialogue, not harsh contact on the bit.

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.If you have a horse, think about your motives and at what point has it become about your goals of glory and attaining them. Have you dismissed the horse as an animal of intelligence and feeling.  François Robichon de La Guérinière wrote about barbaric methods ruining the horses spirit over 100 years ago, take some time to think about what you are asking of your horse and do you anatomically know why you are asking.

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The horse does one of two things. He does what he thinks he’s supposed to do or he does what he thinks he needs to do to survive—Ray Hunt

  • Title quote by Hazrat Ali




10 tips that help partnership

  1. Health- Horse needs to be thriving to have an interest in his work. Consistent vet care, a knowledgeable farrier, De worming schedule ( preventing ticks as well as parasites) turn out and quality hay are obviously beneficial.  Do not over grain your horse as this leads to stored energy making it impossible for your horse to focus, this  is dangerous.
  2. Tack -I see so many saddles that are placed too far forward. This can hinder the horses shoulders causing discomfort and stumbling. Quite often in an evaluation of horses behavior, it is due to a poor fitting saddle. It becomes easy to believe that a saddle is a saddle and the horse can wear it…Horses have to be comfortable if we expect them to perform well.
  3. Goals- Setting long term goals are great but placing a high expectation on our horses can cause frustration and disappointment. It’s a good idea to not only set your big picture goal but a daily goal as well. This leads to reassurance for both you and your horse and keeps things in an achievable perspective.
  4. Focus- Your horse needs to have obedience. Some people do not accept that word with partnership but working with a 1200 lb animal, you need to know there is an understanding of respect and safety between horse and rider.
  5. Purpose- What is the honest purpose for what you are trying to achieve. Make sure you are seeking help from a knowledgeable instructor that can explain the reason for what you are asking from your horse. ( example: placement of the horses head )
  6. Consistency- This means stay consistent in your communication with your horse. Consistency in aids leads to a great partnership. Consistent repetitive exercises actually raise tolerance level producing weaker response from boredom.
  7. Subtleness- subtle aids ( not jabbing with spurs, yanking reins, etc. ) The most effective riders are the ones that can control horse with slight body nuances.
  8. Influence- The horse lives in the moment, he does not know what your future goals are. His main desire is survival and will protect himself from pain or seek absolute comfort. We want to tap into that comfort, not create heightened  defense mechanisms.
  9. Balance-Horses are not born understanding how to carry a rider. Imagine giving someone a shoulder ride or piggy back ride that was flopping all over the place. You would try to accommodate the balance the best you could. Horses attempt to carry unbalanced riders but this usually leads to muscle imbalance, and resentment. Riders should have an understanding of how to properly balance the horse as well. A balanced light horse is a horse that is easy to sit upon and control in perfect harmony.
  10. Safety- Do not take your horse or yourself out of comfort zone if you are insecure. This type of desensitizing training only re assures the horses insecurities if he has not been properly prepared mentally and physically. Get to genuinely know your horse and how he reacts to situations at his comfort. I have endured quite a bit of alarming situations with horses. I develop trust and confidence with them in a less distracting area before expecting a horse to protect me in an unexpected situation.                      Some before and after pics with these training methods                                              20170414_171010.jpg  27023826_192694558133701_1391369166651538872_o                                              gabe-pic.jpg20161003_141148IMG_2191 (2)Screenshot_2017-03-31-17-56-16-1Screenshot_2017-03-31-17-54-13-1

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 ) 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.  She was doing well, I am very particular on creating balance in rider and horse. I am also particular about teaching the rider, not just the horse. Sometimes this can take time and commitment. Just when things were turning positive, She was wooed by a trainer that offered free lessons. You can’t force people to believe in you but in time,  the horse will always show truth in the training methods used. 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 cadence, muscles can work more efficiently.



Interval 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.






” Wellness is not soundness ”  – Jean Luc Cornille

The Methods Behind Integrity Training

When hiring a trainer be sure you are clear about what you are trying to achieve.  I base all of my training on the foundations of Dressage Principles.  This mean it is important to me that the horse is mentally and physically prepared to do exactly what is asked of him. A confused, tense horse is not going to absorb much education.  There are many misconceptions in training but especially in Dressage.

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I am also educated in the biomechanics of the horse.  The Science of motion is an intense study that has allowed me to become more proficient in educating horse and rider. This means when you hire me to help with the horse that won’t soften or yield to bit pressure, we are going to find the root cause, not introduce gadgets to place the horse in a ” frame.      Once a vet has cleared that the mouth is ok, we are going to assess if the back is contracted, inverted, or if it’s more about lack of balance or gait abnormality.  Then we begin the appropriate exercises to correct gait abnormality or muscle imbalance.  I am not going to tell you to work your horse with mechanisms that will force its head into a position.  We are going to go through the process of inviting, not forcing.

If you follow Natural Horsemanship, be sure to hire a trainer that aligns with your beliefs of this type of training.  Natural Horsemanship is not a method that I 100% agree with or incorporate into my training.  Any groundwork that I do is based on the methods of Linda Tellington-Jones. The use of her methods create a relaxed and calm mind.


Kristie helping a student achieve a relaxed, calm horse

These methods have helped me train horses to be successful on the trails in the mountains. The Ttouch has also been a successful method of helping horses that were mistreated or submitted to harsh training methods.  I have also acquired the knowledge of General Decarpentry’s in-hand technique.  If your horse bucks or bolts, I am not going to chase it in a small circle until it stops.  We need to be sure tack is fitting correctly, and assess the physique of the horse and how he moves and carries himself.image1(1)

Hiring the right trainer for you and your horse is so important. Be particular about who is working with your horse. Empathy should always be first and foremost in educating horses. Take part in the journey so you know if you like the methods used on your horse. Capture+_2018-11-03-11-05-34~2


There are many trainers out there today and there are many gadgets to mask the root problem.  Take the time to find the right fit.  Dressage was meant to be an art.  Any masterpiece takes time and patience to create,  especially when re educating a horse corrupted by misguidance.


Attaining balance and lightness without force.


“There is no better proof of the riders method and program than that his horse becomes more beautiful in the course of training.” -Charles De Kunffy

Correct vs. incorrect

There is so much controversy on which training methods are correct or which actually have a damaging effect on the horses physical and mental well being.  Some methods effect the horse progressively while some take time to show up in the way of soreness, lameness, behavior and even health. Being a trainer that re educates horses physical and mental state means keeping my own mind educated and sharp.  All training should have one thing in common and that is empathy for the horse. The next common ground all trainers should have is knowledge of how horses function biomechanically.

There are many riders in the world today but few that can create a balanced, straight, cadenced athlete. Less and less riders are investing in educating themselves to know how to correctly prepare a horse for the demands of  tasks they are being directed to. We just buy better horses or believe that if we have been taught to ride and are fearless, we can become a trainer. Horses are incredible teachers but you must think about knowing the theory of why you are doing what you are. It bothers me to watch a rider so ignorantly working a bit so strongly in the horses mouth. Do you have a theory behind why you are pulling your horses head side to side or to it’s chest? There is scientific proof that this has damaging effects on the horse.

If a horse is taught correctly to flex at the poll with gentle contact, he will seek that comfort and not resist. This takes time, education, and patience.  On the other hand, a rider that is allowing the horse to move ” naturally ” is also creating physical abnormalities. A horse isn’t born to naturally understand and know how to carry a rider in a correct balanced way of going.  If the horse has not been trained to ” self carriage ” under a rider, it will develop it’s own compensation of balance. You can observe so many horses that do not bend in direction of travel ( not just nose ) , do not have a steady rhythm, fight the bit and all contact.  I am not just referring to arena work. All disciplines of riding, including trail riding, need and require the physical preparations for the horse to be and stay comfortable. The unbalanced, incorrect horse will eventually develop a physical and then behavioral dysfunction.


Mr. Bojangles practicing perfect balance and self carriage, makes him steady anywhere.

I have several horses that I maintain on trails and I always need to check in with them on schoolwork. By schoolwork I am not just referring to tarps, swim noodles, etc. I am referring to their physical well-being. I will school them in all three gaits as well as sophisticated gymnastic exercises. These horses have been exposed to bear, moose, elk, coyotes. I must admit I have panicked more than the horse when faced by the bear and moose. I would like to say without insulting any methods that there are no ” games ” to play with the horse to prepare for what you may be faced with. It is a matter of true connection knowing how to steady your horses mind and body with the least amount of effort. I personally think the ” games ” can give a false connection of confidence. I use  Sacking out methods with timid horses but then build their confidence by making them comfortably balanced under a rider. Confident trust means making the horse first physically comfortable, then mentally.

If  you are a rider, you are a trainer. You are either going to make the horse correct or incorrect. If you have a horse that needs help, find a knowledgeable trainer that wants to take the time and patience to create a better athlete. These trainers may not have awards and trophy’s but they have an education of correctness.


Tuckers first trail ride in the mountains.

Trainers taking shortcuts to keep owners happy are detrimental to the horse. I am not referring to trainers that actually spend too much time with groundwork, etc. with no results. Horse owners need to educate themselves so they know what is considered progress and what can actually hinder the horse. Studying biomechanics of the horse is the best training you can provide. Just as horses are not born with a knowledge of how to naturally carry us, we are not born to know how to correctly prepare them for what we ask. If you are reading any blog regarding horses, you obviously were born with a passion for them. Do not allow yourself to become “dumbed down” to the methods that seem to be working to the naked eye.

” Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down and beat you                                                                          with experience”

– Mark Twain




Colt Starting

    Just like people, all horses are different. Their personality, conformation, and willingness to accept an understanding or fight it all plays into the approach you will use with the colt. By using the term ” colt ” I am referring to a horse that is at least three and has had the proper handling leading up to ” starting them under saddle.”

      This blog will be about a young horse in particular. She is a 4 year old Bashkir Curly Breed. She has been taught to lead, tie, pick up feet, trailer, etc. by her previous owner. The first lessons I give with the horse consists of confidence. I am not only speaking of the horses confidence in what I am doing , but also my confidence. I will not tiptoe around the young horse. I will confidently approach and she will learn not to tense up as she learns this is the start of trust. You can see a horse tense their body as a natural defense in a new situation. This is why petting all over by allowing them to be unaware of where you are petting, works well for desensitizing. this is a method traced back to Linda Tellington Jones as a Ttouch approach. I can’t believe how many horses I have helped with her method, now to be able to combine therapy using motion as well is even more rewarding!

         You can use a rope and saddle pad as well, known as ” sacking out the horse ” I don’t overdo the sacking out process at the beginning, I am trying to create a relaxed atmosphere, not a traumatized, afraid to move scenario. This step makes sure they process the information mentally as well as physically. Do not forget the defense mechanism of the horse ” shutting down ” they are ignoring , not absorbing if mouth is tense, eyes not soft and of course body tense. I have explained in other blogs, horse shuts down mentally becoming unaware of surroundings. It is the same survival technique humans use to tolerate domestic violence situations.

     This Mare had good handling experiences and was well taken care of which means she believes the intentions of human handling is positive and unharmful. I would rather work with an untouched colt than one that has been completely ruined. It is fun to see if you can train your own horse but not if you are uneducated with the methods you are trying to impose. Once the horse feels confused or the need to protect himself from these methods, you have created a monster of a mess and it’s hard to know what to do if you have not taken the time to properly educate yourself or the horse. There is no one recipe for training , horses are all different and they decide when and how much they can absorb. Sometimes you can ride a young horse and then the next day you have to start over. This starting foundation is so important as they will always remember it and come back to it.

           If I am re educating a problem horse, I can always tell within a week if they had a solid start, then I know I can fix them easy. Keeping their minds sound while starting ensures a good relationship through their life. We want horses to know that their job is to take care of us when riding and We want the horse to know We will care and protect them as well.  Just as in any relationship, this builds trust and confidence. Sadly, some horses won’t let go of certain situations that caused them pain, even if it was unintentional. I will post a story next month of one horse in particular…

      What I have learned about these Bashkir Curly’s ( I had never even touched one! ) is they are easy to work with, friendly, and have a strong work ethic. You cannot wear them out, their endurance makes them fabulous athletes! This mare is a gorgeous mover and will be trained using Dressage Principles. Western, English, trail , Jumping – I believe she will excel at anything I teach her. Thanks to my great friend Kirsten for breeding such a fine horse mentally and physically.



I will share more info on Decarpentry methods later. I cannot post a colt starting blog without adding this Guy. 14196103_10207125981136055_4061261659132692463_oAbsolute love at first sight and again, a sound mind and body. He was also started with the Decarpentry in hand so no kicking and pulling to get him to turn and go. This has created a well balanced light horse who is already practicing the sophisticated exercises of Dressage. Go Tucker! 1/2 Andalusian 1/2 Quarter Horse ( Azteca )