To be Trusted is a Greater Compliment than to be Loved

Having a passion for such an amazing, majestic, beautiful animal as the horse is a gift.  There are horse lovers, and then there are those that my Aunt would say,  have the “fever.”

My Parents tried to help my obsession. I had horse everything ( still do ) They bought me a horse, I had subscriptions to horse magazines, I had acquired tons of books about horses. One horse was not enough, So they let me buy a naughty little pony. I had actually bought him for my little sister.  Amazingly, she lived through that pony always bolting for home! When the movie International Velvet came out, I was hooked. I began jumping my little Morab Mare in hopes of becoming an Eventer. I wrote to the Olympics to inquire how my horse and I could be chosen for the U.S. team. They were kind enough to write back that I needed Show experience, a really nice horse, and money. I wish I still had that letter!

I started begging to be sent to a horse school where I could live and learn everything about horses.


My Aunt and I at the racetrack in New York.

My Dad flew me to New York to spend a short time with my Aunt. I was so excited, my Aunt at that time, was a groom, eventually to be an Assistant trainer at the race track!  I was mesmerized by her knowledge, she educated me about everything she was doing.  I want to dedicate a blog to her and a short summary of an amazing, hard working, horse lover.

My Aunt Janice always loved horses.  Her best friend and neighbor had a horse so she got to ride.  She actually hadn’t known that her Dad was a horseman until one day she was galloping the horse around and he began shouting instructions to her on how to


My Grandfather on his pony.

properly ride.  My Aunt became a mother at a young age, then unfortunately a single mom.  She needed a job to support herself and her son.  Her first experience of racehorses was at Green Mountain Racetrack in Vermont.  She started as a hot walker, you hand walk the horses after a workout to cool them out.  This was a job she could bring her son to, he could hang out with books, crayons, etc.  She then relocated to Suffolk Downs in Boston, where she became a groom.  It was there that she began to specialize in caring for the difficult horses.

Grooms work very hard at making sure that the horses are comfortable and need knowledge to know if the horses legs need heat or ice.  Grooms need to know which therapy to use for any apparent swelling in the horses legs.  She then moved to a farm in Ocala, Florida where she worked for the impressive Pancho Martin.  He was the hall of fame trainer of thoroughbreds, remembered as the trainer of “Sham”.  They taught her everything possible regarding care of the racehorses.  She even prepared all the Sham babies for the races.

Then, it was a huge step to the famous Belmont racetrack.  When she started she was one of very few women who worked at the racetrack.  It was known as a man’s world.  It was hard work, dangerous, and an absolute commitment to the horses care.  That is where my Aunt excelled, she became a sought out groom.  Her ability to nurse the racehorses so that they would perform better was an amazing gift.


My Aunt with one of her prize racehorses

She loved that each horse was different and you had to find the key to making that horse thrive.  My Aunt says, “They are not a factory number, make them happy and they will run for you”.  Her goal was to become an assistant trainer. As an assistant trainer she would assess the needs of each horse as an individual.  This meant observing what they need or like.  You to have change up their daily workout to keep them interested.  She took her career to where she wanted to be.  She was the person that holds them together so they can do their job to the best of their ability.  Overseeing the horses needs meant becoming very close to them, she was attached to them all.  She explains it as heart wrenching when her horses would win and then sell at claims races.  This is a race where every runner is for sale.

It turns out it was not a love for racing as I always thought.  It was the love of nursing and caring for the horse, keeping them happy and healthy so they could thrive. It wasn’t about the running, she actually admits she barely spent any time observing the races.  When I asked her what the highlight of her career was, I thought she would speak of horses winning.  Her actual highlight, was the five years she spent at a beautiful breeding farm in upstate New York.  At the farm her job was caring for the horses, they were retired runners that were now broodmares, studs, and future prospect.

There are horse lovers everywhere, horses are healing, they offer unconditional love, riding a horse awakens ones soul.  My Aunt taught me a lot in the short time I spent with her at the track.  I was young, but absorbed all the knowledge like a sponge.  One thing always stuck with me, “A true horsemen will quietly learn and observe. You will never know everything about horses because each one is different.  A true horsemen will always desire more knowledge”. IMG_1338.jpg

“It’s amazing what you can learn after you’ve learned all that you think there is to learn”. -Ray Hunt



True or False…

The Hanoverian Mare I am re educating is trained to FEI level. This is the highest level you can take a horse in Dressage training. I wish I could say I am impressed. Instead, it completely saddens me and keeps me aware of the harm that comes from shortcut training in hopes of becoming a true Dressage Queen ( or King ) She never did make it to competition.

This mare began to refuse to do anything, even being caught. She reared up at every chance possible. Her eyes were in a trance like state, if you unexpectedly pet her anywhere, she would flip out like you pet her with a taser. She was lame on her left hind and would not canter on a lunge line without exploding. I was excited to fix her, it was going to take some patience, creativity, and consistency.


Lizzie does very well riding with patience, not force

First step- Ttouch for awareness. You cannot ride a horse that has been shut down mentally and physically, they will only think with their defensive instincts. Fight or flee…This made her aware of the trust she could have with me, allowing me to catch her, sometimes it takes some convincing but now she approaches me and looks forward to what the day brings.

Second- General Decarpentry methods of in hand work. Not so pretty at first but taught her the correct coordination and proper use of back muscles. I did not want her head curled in but rather flexion at the poll and longitudinal flexion when relaxing the rein contact.


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Finally – Riding. Started out with rear after rear, she was obviously confused and this defensive reaction tends to scare many riders., I am sure it worked in having a quick dismount from the rider ( Rearing is dangerous and unacceptable but sometimes the loudest shout a horse can use to defend themselves ) Riding her is like steering an airplane…no bend. No knowledge of bend. I use a leg aid and it’s rear, ask for a circle and it’s piaffe, ask for trot circle, must be passage. She is like a robot that is guessing and attempting to impress, let’s not forget halt to walk is definitely a cue for Spanish walk.



The horse is allowed to find self-carriage.

I am making huge progress by going back to square one. Let’s have forward but in rhythm and relaxation ( Cadence ) She was ridden with a gadget that forced her head in a position, but with a curb. She is a big mover, very athletic so I am sure the need to control that energy was enforced.  I am using exercises like shoulder fore and shoulder in to slow her down and get the correct lift and use of back and hind legs. The lameness is gone. When I give the reins at trot and Canter, her head swirls around, barely noticeable but she does not know what to do without that hold. I have been riding her with a loose rein, I can’t carry a whip to educate her to properly bend because whip=piaffe work


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So my point is this, please do not rush the horses training by being impressed with false movement. The horse needs to understand what is being asked. They deserve freedom and correctness, they are not machines.  They need to be taught correct use of back muscles, proper engagement of the hind leg. This horse was trained to such a high level because of her Breed, her athleticism, her heart of gold, and desire to please. There was no regard to the damage that was created mentally and physically. She is an example of why I love helping horses with behavior issues. When you can set them free and awaken their mind from defensive instinct, that horse will never forget you, a bond has been created and you will never forget the horse.

I would like to share some things that really stood out to me in some recent articles in The Horse Magazine

The horse is not born as an animal that carries weight, the rider has to educate the horse. Many people do not understand that. Horse breeds have improved, but has Dressage ?  Dressage is a dance, anyone who is balance can dance much better.

– Susanne Miesner

Challenge yourself to become a better person and a better rider

– Debbie Mcdonald




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.


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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

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. 



It’s all about what’s in your heart and how you use it

Horses…I have loved them since I sat on one when I was four years old at the pony rides. Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love them. Not only because I always smell like one but also because of my desire and love for educating horses and riders. As long as I can remember, I have only wanted to read and study everything possible about horses. I also wanted to learn all I could and will always have a thirst for knowledge regarding horses. Teaching a horse to be balanced, supple, and straight is so rewarding.  It’s about creating an athlete and also a happier, healthier and safer partnership. A well balanced, supple horse is a comfortable horse. Horses will seek comfort in everything they do, or they will seek to protect themselves from pain. Most behavior problems are created from a source of pain. I love using principles of Dressage as well as Ttouch combined with Science of motion methods. Applying these methods to any discipline is a sure path to re educating horses that have been deemed dangerous, lame, unrideable.


Tucker daydreaming he is a champion

Some horses do have deep rooted emotional issues they sometimes just can’t let go of and will never feel completely trusting of their surroundings. I compare it to abusive relationships humans endured and can never truly let go and trust completely, always hanging on to that defense mechanism in one way or another.

It is important to have a mentor or role model that you can look up to or desire to follow in their footsteps. My daughter and I had the privilege of auditing a RMDS symposium with Steffen Peters. Watching him teach and then getting to see him ride so many horses so brilliantly really brought my passion for the art of Dressage back. Although I was still using Dressage methods in all my training, I had honestly lost my passion when I attended clinics and shows where the riders only cared about forcing the horses head  in a position. It was such a turn off to the sport I had admired my entire life. Steffen is so quiet and humble but can instruct as well as ride.  ” See everything as a training opportunity ” is what he suggests when the horse misbehaves or makes a mistake. That one really stuck for me as I sometimes tend to view faults as a huge disaster.


The incredible focus between Steffen and a clinicians horse

Hearing him say that in my mind really helps to develop patience if horses are acting out. Schooling horses in gymnastic movements is one of my favorite things to do. Each training session is rewarding as the horse becomes lighter, balanced, stronger and therefore when done correctly, happier.

Of course then there is my idol, I wish I was as gifted as you…Carl Hester. I am beyond obsessed with studying everything I can get my hands on about Carl. Charlotte too as I read Valegros story ( written by Carl ) 🙂 in one day. I sometimes feel like a kid again as I pretend to be Charlotte when I am riding. It really makes me want to try harder when I think of any of my role models when I am schooling my horses. It is so important as it keeps us sharp to what we are trying to attain.

Dressage is all about preparing and creating an athlete. Whether it is for competition, trail riding, or just backyard fun it is a complex form of creating a quiet but special bond between horse and rider. When you have to school a horse with such focus from horse and rider, it can’t become anything but a beautiful relationship. The horse is such a magnificent creature and I thank God for the profound love I have for them.

Great day learning from and meeting Steffen Peters!!

Great day learning from and meeting Steffen Peters!

” Life’s most urgent question is : what are you doing for others?

—-Martin Luther King

Title quote from Jeannette Baldwin—



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