How to learn to ride


Best Etiquette, Roebke’s Run, September 2014, D and G Photo credit

All I am thinking in this picture is “sternum up.”  I should have been thinking, “put your calf on and let go in your knee” too, but one thing at a time.  One stride after this fence is a very vertical fence, and all season long Eddie and I had been smoking the oxer and subsequently pulling the vertical in the oxer to vertical combination that pretty much is guaranteed to be on any prelim showjumping course.

See the guy in the grey sweatshirt behind me videotaping?  That would be my husband Jay, who is a helluva good videographer – knows how to use the zoom and is rock steady.  And I had seen in video after video, images of Eddie jumping beautifully over the oxer (see Eddie above, he is a ridiculous gift from the Universe for which I am ever grateful) and me not holding my back to the second element, thereby pushing him through the distance and resulting in a pulled rail more often than not.

So through the miracle of video and a star of a husband, I’d learned that I needed to keep my sternum up over the fence and in the stride afterward.  I’m happy to say we jumped double clear and kept our position in second, 0.2 points off the leader, a wonderful young rider who was as thrilled to win as I was to keep the rail up so Eddie wouldn’t give me that look that horses do when they were great and you messed up.

So what happened there?  I learned what was going on, I learned how to fix it, I practiced fixing it for weeks, and then in competition, I had a mantra I repeated like a woman possessed, to make my new habit my default.

Let’s break down the steps of learning new riding habits.

To learn to ride well, first you have to learn where you are in your riding – what you are doing, both good and bad.  When I was a kid, I had an awesome shetland pony named Cricket and we went everywhere in every field, gravel road and woods around our farm in Cascade, Wisconsin.  Damn, I could ride, I was sure of it.  I hardly ever fell off, so I, of course, knew how to ride.  (Great childhood logic, still employed by some wildly average adult riders, but I digress.)  I went to the 4-H show and there were four riders in my class.  I was for sure going to win!  I went in, did my thing, and came out with a white ribbon.  What?!  I was 6, so of course I blamed the judge (another great childhood logic, also still employed by some wildly average adult riders).  My sister, who had attained all the wisdom that 12 years on earth provides said, “Of course. You never got a right lead. Duh.” Clear feedback can hurt, but identifying the problem one way or the other is Step One.

Publicly, I was like, “Oh, well, yeah, of course, no right lead” and then privately I was like, “Aaaaaaaaand, what’s a right lead?”  Now having identified the problem, I moved on to Step Two: Learning How to Fix It.  My brilliant sister and the Sheboygan County 4-H Horse and Pony Handbook (shout out to the UW-Extension system!) taught me about leads.  I learned to identify leads by chasing the horses around in the pasture until I could see which lead they were on (I know, awesome 6 year old logic!) and then my sister let me ride her horse so I could learn to identify them from the tack.  Then she taught me how to cue for one lead or the other on a straight line (Olympics here I come!).  Finally, we went back to my pony and worked on his right lead, which turned out to be no problem once his rider had a solid clue.

I practiced and practiced before my next competition until I could get a right lead in my sleep.  (And in fact, I did think about it before falling asleep at night – how to cue and what it felt like to get a left lead versus a right lead.  I don’t doubt that I did dream about it.)  My mantra on show day had been the one I practiced with, “left leg back, right leg at the girth, sit up”.  And it worked.  I actually don’t remember what ribbon I received, but I remember the feeling of getting a right lead and knowing I had the right lead.  I was grinning like a kid with a smiley face teacher sticker on her spelling test.  I am sure the judge and parent-audience thought I was possessed.  Awesome.

I am still learning to improve my riding, and teaching others to do the same.  Like this:

  1. Learn what is going on
  2. Learn how to fix it
  3. Practice the correct way (develop a mantra)
  4. Use the mantra when under pressure

Step One: Learning What is Going On

Let’s say you are in a riding lesson and your instructor mentions a particular riding flaw and how to correct it – maybe she says it more than a few times.  Or maybe you are watching a video of yourself and you notice a habit you would like to change.  Maybe your horse is telling you that when you ride a particular way, he goes better than when you don’t ride that way.  If you are lucky enough to ride in an arena with mirrors, you can also gain insights by watching yourself and how your riding position affects your horse’s carriage.  These are some of the ways to learn what is going on.

Step Two: Learning How to Fix It

Because William Fox Pitt and I have similar builds, but unlike me he rides with dang near perfect equitation, I use him for an example a lot for myself.  I suggest my riders find a riding hero and look at pictures or video of them to observe and then learn, learn, learn what works.  I made this graphic for one of my riders who is learning to stay centered in turns and to carry her hands properly.  Having a clear mental image of how things should be and the seeing the resultant change in the horse’s carriage because of proper rider position is extremely useful.  You have to know where you are going in order to get there.


Step Three: Practicing the Correct Way (and developing a mantra)

Practicing is largely a matter of brain training.  Let’s say someone is working on holding their hands in the proper position, and keeping them still relative to the horse.  I suggest that they check their position each time they pass a cardinal letter in the dressage arena (A, C, E or B).  (Or maybe the sixth fence post on your outdoor arena or pasture, or every 30 seconds while riding out.  You could set your watch or phone to beep every 30 seconds or whatever.  You get the idea, just be creative.)  What will happen is that (assuming you are in a dressage arena), you can fix your hand position at A and by the time you get to E, your hands have dropped/become uneven.  You fix them at E, and by C, they have fallen again.  In real life, this is what happens when learning a new skill.  How you treat the information that to make a lasting change is to make hundreds of repeated small changes is the deciding factor in whether you will be successful in improving your riding.  You have a choice each time you notice that you have to make a correction to your position.  You can:

A) Judge yourself – hop on the ol’ drama llama and think, “I will never learn this!  I’m a bad rider, I can’t maintain it for 15 seconds!”


B) Say “Whoopsie!” laugh, and try again.

If you were teaching your child to walk and they bonked on their diapered butt, what would you say to them?

“You will never learn to walk!  You are a bad walker!  You can’t do it for three steps!”


“Whoopsie, honey, good try.  Let’s try again.”

Which hypothetical child do you think learns faster?  Which kid is having more fun?  (Hint, the answer is the same for both.)

Your inner voice should be that of a relaxed friend.  If it isn’t, tell it to dry up and blow away, and then create a new script.  Your inner voice is you.  You can make your inner voice use the tone you like.  There’s a bit about this in the “Black Box and the Gold Box“.

butler-head-waiter-server-luxury-standing-isolated-carrying-tray-man-has-air-class-wealth-male-32561297While  you are learning your new skill, a mantra will naturally develop.  For keeping hands up, I like to think of a butler carrying a tray like this guy.  He has excellent posture, with his shoulder blades down his back and he carries his ribcage and forearms in splendor.  So, “Butler” became my mantra for that.

Step 4: Use the Mantra When Under Pressure.  Now you have identified where your riding needs improvement and gotten into the habit of frequent and kind self-checks. At your next show, where you used to ride around the warm-up just generally trying to do your best while continuously noticing how great everyone else looks, now you have developed the presence of mind and habit of frequent self checks that keep you focused on the fundamental skill you are developing and YOUR riding, not everyone else’s.  So you are replacing self doubt and habitual comparing of  yourself to others with a proactive, familiar mantra.  Your Butler will carry your through!

Very good, Mum.  :-)



Cadence for young horses


With some curious and friendly young connemaras at Elliott Blackmon’s place

U.S. Eventing Team coach David O’Connor was teaching in Ocala early this week on the topic of training 4 year old horses. He shared a story about a cadence he drills into his working students while they are working with the four year olds:
“What are we riding?”

“Four year olds!”

“What are we doing with them?”

“Waiting for them to be 6 year olds!”

Sure ride them. Sure walk, trot and canter. But ever playful. Show them things and let them learn that you are generous and friendly and that work is fun.

A Day with David O’Connor

IMG_5669OK, not really just me and the Dave hangin’ out, but today I was at Longview South in Ocala, FL at the USEA Instructor Certification (ICP) Symposium – kind of a continuing education deal for ICP instructors or other interested  horse junkies.

Short random video of leg yield to set the stage:

Robyn Walker making canter look so easy:

The morning started out with a 50 minute discussion on teaching, riding and how horse sports can improve in general.  One of  his recurring themes is that we can borrow from other sports.  He mentioned that he was struck while watching the Super Bowl coverage that the 39 year-old quarter back (and the entire team) warmed up by doing drills.  He was noticing that even those who are experienced and at the highest level of the NFL recognize the value and importance of reviewing sound fundamentals.  (The implication being, of course, the lots of riders skip fundamentals or, once they reach a certain level, they don’t review and renew their skills as often as might be ideal.)   Hmmmm…

Following are some of my notes from the day, most are direct quotes, but some are paraphrased, hopefully faithfully:

  • When learning to ride, there are 5 phases of riding
  1. Technique (learning position and how to communicate with horses.  The vast number of riders are here)
  2. Theory (Camie in: This means read and study in the winter.  You can’t ride?  Read a book, watch videos.)
  3. Instinct (You’ve practiced correctly and studied and visualized it for so long that the correct response is fully ingrained in muscle memory)
  4. Intuition (setting a horse up for success in training and competition)
  5. Imagination (the land where you can create exercises at home and see things in competition that others do not.  Michael Jung lives here pretty much by himself.)
  • Rider responsibilities
    • Straightness
    • Speed
    • Rhythm
    • Balance
    • Impulsion
    • (Camie in: “Dear God, please let this ring at least somewhat familiar in my students’ heads.  Amen.”)
  • For instructors, in a lesson
    • What am I trying to do?
    • How am I going to do it? (Let the exercise teach the lesson)
  • As riders progress, they understand that many problems are skill based, not horse based (A nice way of communicating that “It’s us.  It’s really, really us.  And they sooner we accept our role as the baggage that needs to mostly get out of the horses’ way, the better horses will go for us.” Or “Horses go as we ride them.”)
  • The rider’s aids must be clear and consistent. (One key without the other does not open the lock.)
  • 4 year olds should be allowed to be 4 year olds.  He told a story about his students at his barn, and that he has drilled into their heads: “That is a 4 year old.  What are we doing with him?”  “Waiting for him to be 6!”
  • No bending for 4 year olds (Not a typo)
  • There are three parts to the rider’s body
    • Lower leg
    • The seat, which is knee to lower rib cage
    • The upper body
  • Seat dictates length of stride and tempo
  • Canter transitions from a big trot to a big canter is a good exercise for horses to help them be loose in their backs
  • The most powerful tool is the give (the relaxation of the aids)
  • The quality of the hands is unbelievably important (Please, Master of the Universe, let this not be news to my current students!)
  • On a circle, the inside hind leg should be on the line of travel
  • For canter depart, feel where his haunches are, then canter when ready
  • Leg yield
    • Go from wall toward middle of arena, rather than middle to wall to encourage horse not to run to wall
    • Put weight slightly in direction of movement.  Horses follow weight
  • For turning, think of pushing with the outside aids around the turns.  Push, don’t pull.  “Push to the line, don’t hold to the line”
  • For 4 and 5 year olds, keep their necks straight in front of them and push them around with your legs (laterally supple, etc.)
  • Two kinds of half halts
    • One changes length of stride
    • Other rebalances
  • Young horses should “walk like they’re late”
  • 4 year olds should do transitions between gaits, 5 year olds should do transitions within gaits.
  • Leg yield and shoulder in and haunches in are not ends in themselves.  They are means to an end, like toe touching and strengthening is a way to become a football player (I thought this was brilliant)
  • Can go forward and collect in leg yield
  • An exercise: leg yield in canter to leg yield in trot across the diagonal
  • Cadence = lift
  • Horses need to develop responsiveness to seat aids.  Riders need to remember to use them (before going to hands)
  • And finally, simple way to think about collecting is to “lift the horse in the middle” (with the seat)  The front end and the back end naturally come down.

This was a typical position for this rider.  David is discussing straight line elbow to bit and a soft elbow.

Great fun today!  More tomorrow.  Subscribe to the blog if you like!

This just in

In a freakishly well-timed and serendipitous follow up to yesterday’s post about horse-training styles, this just in from research at ISU regarding parents’ influence on children.  Dr. Laczniak has done some great work.  Because I am always thinking horses, it occurred to me that if you substitute “riders” for parents, “horses” for children, and “horses acting like monkeys” for “children playing violent video games”, all of the same conclusions could apply. An excerpt from the original article:

Three dimensions of parental styles – warm, restrictive, and anxious-emotional – were examined for the study. In the paper, researchers explained that warm parents tend to refrain from physical discipline and show approval through affection. Restrictive parents set and enforce firm rules for the household. Anxious-emotional parents are often overprotective and show elevated emotions when interacting with their children.

(Dr. Russell) Laczniak says the research team expected children with warm or restrictive parents would spend less time playing violent video games. However, they were surprised to see the impact of anxious-emotional parents. He and his colleagues included this dimension based on past studies, which found that children of anxious-emotional parents tend to have more problems. The biggest takeaway for parents is to set limits and be more calmly detached in the relations with their children.

“If parents want to reduce the amount of violent video games that their kids play, be warm when dealing with them, but somewhat restrictive at the same time, and set rules and those rules will work,” Laczniak said. “For parents, who are more anxious, the rules become less effective and those kids are going to play more.”

– See more at:

So it turns out that a game of hot and cold, with an emphasis on the warm is the best way to influence those in our care, whether they be horses or people.

Here is that article with my ridiculously non-academic, horse-related substitutions:

Three dimensions of riding styles – 1) warm, 2) restrictive, and 3) anxious-emotional – were noted by Stockhausen in a very anecdotal manner during her riding and teaching. She noted that warm riders tend to refrain from physical discipline and show approval through affection. Restrictive riders set and enforce firm rules for the ride. Anxious-emotional riders are often overprotective and show elevated emotions when interacting with their horses and sometimes refer to their horses as “fur-children,” to the quiet horror of those passers-by unfortunate enough to overhear that which can not be unheard.

Stockhausen thinks that the completely undisciplined, random observations she has made over time suggest that horses with warm or restrictive riders spend less time acting like monkeys. And she was not surprised to see the impact of anxious-emotional riders. She includes this dimension based on past experience, which noted that horses of anxious-emotional riders tend to have more problems fitting in to polite horse society. The biggest takeaway for riders is to set limits and be more calmly detached in the relations with their horses.

“If riders want to reduce the amount of monkey-like horse behavior, they should be warm when dealing with them, but somewhat restrictive at the same time, and set rules, and those rules will work,” Laczniak originally said about people and Stockhausen completely agrees when applied to horses. “For riders who are more anxious, the rules become less effective and those horses are going to act like monkeys.”

My grateful apologies to Dr. Laczniak for allowing me to ride the coat tails of his excellent work to help me express what I have noticed in my mere anecdotal equestrian observations.  If I have some thing to add to the Universe it is only because I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Thank you Dr. Laczniak.

Hot and Cold

I am on a TED talks kick.  ‘TED’ stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and their byline is “Ideas Worth Spreading.”  Love TED.

The latest TED talk that reminded me of horses is a talk by Amy Cuddy about how your body language shapes who you are.  During the talk, she is describing the design of their experiment.  The subjects are to go to a job interview, but before they do, they are to be in a power pose or a non power pose for two minutes before the interview.  The interviewers have been trained to withhold giving any body language back to the interviewees and only speak to them as they must.  She remarked that “People hate this!” and I thought, “Horses do too.”

And now for a break to look at a really pretty horse and William Fox Pitt, a magnificent rider:   I made this graphic for another application so it has a few things that are not quite on point, but maybe not a complete bore either.  But the point I want you to take from this is that WFP is giving the horse genuine positive feedback.

WFPWTNwebNow back to horses and feedback.  Horses are in a funny position.  Even the clumsiest among them can run faster than the fastest among us.  Many of them can jump higher than we are tall.  Yet, we come along, over-confident athletically untalented bipeds that we are and commence to boss them about in a language they don’t initially understand, and doing so in some cases, in a manner that is too quick and too presumptive.  Horses, half of the time, are just trying to figure out what in the heck it is we want from them.  The main string they have to play on, being powerful beings of flight, is the one string that most people who ride them don’t want them to play on, ever.

So people ride horses and try to communicate what they want the horses to do, but for the most part, riders default to communicating what they do not want the horse to do.  “Now Trigger, don’t buck, don’t rear, don’t shy, don’t go to fast, don’t be barn or buddy sour” and on and on.

It becomes like the old game of Hot and Cold where a group of people is trying to get a player to find an object that the group knows, but the player doesn’t.  If the group is required to only direct the person with negative directions, like saying ‘Cold’ when the player is not near the object, but not every using Warm and Hot for correct moves, the player has to keep stumbling in the metaphorical dark and it takes a very long time for the player to find the object.  If however, the group can use, Warm and Hot to indicate when the player is moving in the right direction or nearly being successful, the game goes a lot more quickly, and, incidentally, is more fun for all.

That situation is like a rider training a horse.  If the rider only uses Cold training, punishing the missteps and ignoring the correct ones, it takes a very long time for the horse to understand what is desired, and it isn’t much fun for either party as the horse stumbles about in the metaphorical dark.  But if the rider (who is always training, for better or worse) can use Warm and Hot training, such as “rewarding the try” and giving frequent praise for correct work, the learning curve becomes exponential, and incidentally, is more fun for all.

This video is a case in point.  This is me on a four year old OTTB named Merida, sometimes called Monkey for good reason, going over her first cross rail.  She wobbles on the approach, but gets over the fence just fine.  I praise her immediately.  I don’t wait several strides to praise her.  I don’t wait until she does it perfectly to praise her.  I don’t stop her to praise her.  We keep going forward and I let her know that what she did was good.  In immediately taking the pressure off her by praising her, she starts to think this jumping thing is something she is good at.  Whether she will be or she won’t be a good jumper is dependent somewhat on her physical talent, but whether she will try with her whole heart is dependent on the response she gets from her rider.  What we are really doing when we train horses is influencing their minds and growing their confidence.  The physical follows.

Now what if Merida had run out and avoided jumping the fence?  What does a thinking rider do?  I think they make no comment to the horse, make sure that their own riding is correct, and simply re-present to the fence.  Why?  Because giving no feedback is punishment.  Subtle punishment, but just like the above example in the experiment with the job applicants getting no feedback from the interviewers, giving no feedback is very uncomfortable.  For a green horse who lacks jumping confidence, the No Comment response is negative enough.  For many horses at many times, the No Comment response is negative enough.*  Using No Comment for unwanted behavior and praising even wobbly attempts is analogous to playing the Hot and Cold game only using Warm and Hot cues.  It goes much faster and is the most fun for everyone.

This way of training, of praising the try and allowing the incorrect to pass, is the opposite of what many riders naturally do: over-react to the mis-steps and under-react to the tentative, wobbly tries.  The quickest and most positive way to train horses is to ignore minor mistakes, but immediately retry; and to notice and reward the effort rather than only the complete success.

* For dangerous behavior, very clear negative response of short duration is needed.  But most of the time, horses are trying to cooperate.

Learning to ride, off the horse

So Mary Hanson, a nifty friend of mine, has been raving for several years about her yoga instructor. Love her, but yadda, yadda, I do yoga in my house by myself, I don’t need to go to a yoga instructor, let alone one whose only time I could work with him was 5:30 a.m.  Time passed, and doing yoga by myself got to be a bit flat to say the least, and I started doing it in fits and starts.  Then I stopped doing it, while my conscience, disgusted, looked the other way.

So I decided to look up this yoga guy, whose name, in a wry wink from the Universe, is Mat.  Yoga Mat.  Oh stop.  Anyway, I go to Yoga Mat and he is spectacular.  Mary is yet again, correct.  :-)  We went all the way back to square one with mountain pose, better known to the non-yoga public as, um, “standing”.  Seriously.  Then we spent an hour going over Sun Salutation A, which, if you look at the link in this sentence is in “Yoga for Beginners”.  Ha ha ha.  I have been doing yoga for, what, 10 years?  You’d have thought that going back to square one would not be cool, but I completely enjoyed going back and learning it correctly.  Mat would show me just how to move my hands or move my back.  I had always had a hard time remembering Sun Salutation A, but after working with a really good instructor it was pretty easy because I could understand what each movement was supposed to do.

One of the corrections that came up twice from Matt was that I need to move my lower ribs down.  This is an odd thought, because we are always told to “stand up straight and tall”.  My interpretation of that had been to “open my rib cage” (elongating the space from my bottom rib to my navel).  Turns out is better to engage your core and drop both your front ribs and your shoulder blades down your back.  This engages your core magnificently.  Try it.  Sit up “straight” at your computer.  Now, pull your lowest ribs down while still sitting up tall and at the same time dropping your shoulder blades down your back.

I don’t know what you feel, but I feel immediate solidness and strength in my upper body.  Both the front and back sides of the body are engaged.  I also feel that it is really hard to maintain!  Oy vey!


Redwood Original aka The Fabulous Sammy at Wind’s Reach. Yes that is Eric Dierks judging.🙂

At any rate, I went to two more sessions with Yoga Mat, who gave me an at-home routine to work on and I am going to check in with him in a lesson each Friday.  Meanwhile, John Staples was out at my barn today and I had a lesson with him on the fabulous Sammy.

I really like my lessons with John because he lets me “in” a little bit as a fellow trainer.  I basically ride around and work on stuff and he comments and asks me questions to make me think, and shares enlightening anecdotes.  During all this, he said, “You know, if I have a problem with your riding, well, not really a problem, but if we were splitting hairs, I would say that you are always just a bit behind the motion.”  I’ve heard this before, usually expressed as the more annoying “a little heavy in the tack”.  Ouch.  Expressed the second way, I didn’t know what to do with it.  But when John said, “behind the motion”, I got to thinking about my time with Mat.  If someone’s lower rib cage is constantly a little “popped forward”, it would sink their sternum back and make them look behind the motion.  In fact they would be behind the motion.

So I decided to try to incorporate the changes that Mat was having me do on the yoga mat to riding a horse.  I moved my lower rib cage down while sliding my shoulder blades down my back, which then engaged my core.  I’m not going to say it was easy, but it was definitely effective.  The slight “wave” in my upper body in canter subsided and I was more centered on the horse rather than behind him.  After riding a few minutes like this, the asymmetry that I have been experiencing in the past year went away.  I could see in the mirrors that I was straight.  I wasn’t even aiming for that!

I planned on keeping up with the yoga anyway, and this is some really exciting stuff that I find motivating both for riding and for yoga practice!

Have you had breakthroughs inspired by off-horse insights?

Kickboxing Dressage Horses

Some of you may have seen this article before, which I wrote in 2008.  I am posting it now by request.

Completely gratuitous picture of Elliot  :-)

Completely gratuitous picture of Elliot🙂

Now into my 4th week of kickboxing, I see clearly that learning to kickbox is simply dressage for people.  It’s all about building strength and flexibility, but this time it is my job, not my horse’s, to do the physical work.  The trainer hasn’t yet uttered the term “gymnasticising”  but I have a suspicion she is thinking it.

I should have seen this epiphany coming.  On Day One, I was smugly confident that I, a former intercollegiate athlete afterall, would pick up this sissy-pants kickboxing in a snap.  Alas, pride goeth before a fall.  Five minutes into the class I was reduced to giggling at my coltish attempts to keep in step.  Occasionally off the beat, often with legs entangled, I began the journey as a goofy young horse–no balance, no muscle tone, but happy to go.

During this time, I relied heavily on my trainer.  The manner in which I looked to her is just as young horses look to us:  “Um, a little help?”  What elevated my favorite trainers was their gift for simply preparing me to succeed.  Perhaps as we were doing a side kick she’d say, “Forward kick in 3, 2, 1”, so that I could be thinking about how to change to the forward kick before I was asked to do it.  Transitions presented in this manner were simple and fun to perform.  If trainers did not give this “verbal half halt”, the transition would be disorganized and rushed.  Worse yet, repeated muffed attempts would leave me vaguely frustrated, and perceiving myself as incompetent.  I realize, with more than a little sadness, that I have felt horses experience this frustration with me.  The kickboxing horsie in me, and the grass-munching ones in my pasture, appreciate having a little “heads up”.

My inner horsie learns best with occasional praise.  As my legs flopped about, while my neighbors’ kicks snapped vividly, I was acutely aware that I was not competent.  From my viewpoint as I struggled, the best trainers responded by encouraging improvement rather then by highlighting shortcomings. Good trainers trust that people and horses would prefer to be competent, and therefore generously acknowledge improvement.  This tactic encouraged my inner horsie to strive more cheerfully and probably more effectively.

With some effort, I’m about a 2nd Level Kickboxing Dressage Horse these days.  Mostly balanced, and I have to admit, a little overconfident at times.  “Ah, yes, next comes the boxer’s hop and then a side kick,” says my presuming inner horsie.  When a front kick comes in where the side kick should have been, uppity inner horsie morphs to attentive inner horsie in a hoofbeat.  There’s nothing like a little variety to keep that inner horsie tuned in.

Timely half halts, honest praise and creative work.  Today I was a kickboxing dressage horse, and for me, that has made all the difference.