Category: Training

How do I ride inside leg to outside rein?

Riding inside leg to outside rein is one of the foundation exercises of classical dressage. Really, it should be the foundation for any discipline. It is a vital component that…
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What is pressure and release training?

You've probably heard about pressure and release training at some point. It's become all the rage with this "natural horsemanship" movement. However, this is a very misunderstood method of training.…
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5 Common Horse Myths Busted

Here are a few common horse myths that you've probably heard before and might believe, all of which are untrue. Horse Myth 1: All horses need grain or some type…
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The Language of Silence

So often we forget that horses are none verbal creatures. We teach them verbal commands like walk, trot, canter, and whoa. However, responding to verbal commands goes against their nature. In…
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The Secret to a Soft Mouth

    Softness is a key part of collection in any discipline. There are many exercises and theories behind creating a soft mouth in your horse. However, softness is not…
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Disclosing A Disability to A Trainer

Last year I did an article on dealing with chronic illness as an equestrian. This was inspired by my own struggles with severe asthma and epilepsy. However, I recently got…
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The Art of Neck Reining

  Neck reining is one of the most misunderstood arts in horse riding, second only to collection. The very name itself is misleading enough to make you wonder who on…
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Horse Selling Red Flags

  Selling a horse can be a tumultuous experience. As a continuation of Tuesday's article A Beginner's Guide to Horse Selling, here are a few red flags to avoid setting…
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A Beginner’s Guide to Horse Selling

  Deciding to sell your horse is a difficult decision. There are many different reasons why you might decide to go through with it. Often, this decision has to do…
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Horse Shopping Red Flags

  Buying a horse can be an overwhelming experience for first time horse buyers. As a continuation of Tuesday's article A Beginner's Guide to Horse Shopping, here are a few…
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A Beginner’s Guide to Horse Buying

It is easier than ever to shop for a horse online. Thousands of horses are listed for sale on all kinds of websites--some more reputable than others. With so many…
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Battle Show Ring Burnout

  If you do a lot of concentrated training with your horse, there is always a danger of burnout, particularly with younger horses. Even if you are careful not to…
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Open a Gate While Mounted: A Step-by-Step Training Guide

Learning to open a gate while mounted has many uses. Whether you just want to make use of the skill around the farm or need the maneuver for pattern classes,…
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Rhythm and Cadence in Classical Training

  The concept of rhythm was briefly touched upon in my article on the Classical Training Pyramid. However, this deserves a more in depth discussion as as rhythm -- or…
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The Mechanics of Bolting (and How to Prevent It)

Bolting is one of the most terrifying habits for a horse to develop as well as one of the most dangerous. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of riding…
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Consistency vs Repetition

  In horse training we talk a lot about horses' need for consistency. However, their need for consistency is too often mistaken for a need for repetition. There is a…
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Habitation vs Desensitization

You probably hear a lot about desensitization in horse training. It is a common approach used to acclimate horses to strange objects and environments. The most common application of this…
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The Classical Training Pyramid

  One of the governing principles of classical dressage is the training pyramid. It lays out the roadmap for the entirety of the horse's training journey from very first day…
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The Mechanics of Lateral Flexion

Lateral flexion is a bit of a hot topic in horse training. Most people know it is necessary to achieve softness in the bridle, but too many people do not…
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Achieving Softness Throughout the Body

Softness is something that most equestrians strive for. Softness is the bridle, through the rib cage, moving off your leg, responding to your aids. It is vital to putting a…
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Straightness vs Bend: How Much is Too Much?

We talk a lot of about bend when training horses. "You have to get him supple." "He needs to be soft in the poll to achieve bend." "You need to…
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The Importance of the Counter Arc

Does your horse constantly drop his inside shoulder in a turn? This is a common problem in all disciplines, but it is a particularly pervasive problem in barrel racing. The…
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The Mechanics of Rearing

  Rearing is every rider's nightmare. The biggest fear for most riders when a horse rears is that they will flip over backwards. This is a legitimate concern for some…
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Bucking the System: Mechanics and Prevention of Bucking

Bucking is arguably the most dangerous behavior a horse can develop. It can quickly become a habit if not addressed immediately. But, before you can understand how to stop your…
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The Panic Button: How to Avoid Making a Bad Situation Worse

  Even the best horses have bad days. No matter how broke your horse is, no matter how seasoned or how well trained, every horse can have a bad day.…
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The Art of the Perfect Circle

  The circle is the basis for so many pattern classes in the show ring today. It seems like such a simple maneuver, but creating a perfect circle really is…
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Sequence Your Aids: How and Why

We've talked several times now about the importance of consistency. Horses are creatures of habit. This is why we use set cues to ask for certain behaviors. This may seem…
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For the Love of the Horse: My Seizure Story

The other day I got a rather nasty comment from a certain individual. I will not name names, but you know who you are. This person took the time out…
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Spirals: Their Value and How to Use Them

Spirals are a very valuable exercise for any discipline. They really help with shoulder and rib cage control. Spirals test a horse's balance and collection. They can be done at…
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The Intelligence Factor: Are Horses Really as Simple-minded as We Think?

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about equine intelligence. A common comment I hear about horses is "oh, they've got a brain the size of a walnut, they…
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Lead Changes: The Secrets to Successful Flying and Simple Changes

  Lead changes are a vital component of all disciplines; from dressage to barrel racing, show jumping to reining. Every discipline aspires to perfect this seemingly simple maneuver. What are…
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What does it mean for a horse to have a good handle?

It is fairly common in the western industry to hear trainers remark about what a "good handle" a horse has. Many newcomers to the industry get confused by this statement…
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Leg Yield: The Basis of All Lateral Movement

The leg yield is perhaps the single most important maneuver you will ever teach your horse. The leg yield forms the basis for every other lateral movement from the sidepass…
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Conformation Decline in the American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is an icon in western disciplines. While opinions on ideal conformation may differ widely from discipline to discipline, the older conformation ideals are starting to come…
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4 Great Rider Fitness Exercises

Last week we discussed conditioning your horse after a layoff. But, just as important as horse fitness is rider fitness. No matter what level of exercise you maintained during the…
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Jackpot vs Divisional vs Rodeo vs Futurity: What’s the difference?

Barrel racing is an iconic rodeo sport that is rapidly growing in popularity across the US and even internationally. But not all barrel races are created equal. There are four…
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Synthetic Saddles: Pros and Cons

    Last week we started the discussion of synthetic vs natural materials by  addressing the issue of saddle pads and cinches. Today we will address the pros and cons…
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Natural Fibers vs Synthetics: A Guide to Pads and Cinches

    This is a long standing debate in the equine industry: natural fibers vs synthetics. With so many new technologies and synthetic materials being produced every day, the market…
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4 Items in Your Tack Room That You Can Repurpose

With winter in full swing in the northern hemisphere, riding time is limited. But that just means that you've got more time to clean out that tack room and sort…
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Teaching Your Horse to Take Responsibility for His Own Feet

A few weeks ago, we discussed the dangers of micromanaging and why it is detrimental to your horse's training. However, that discussion raises the question of how do we teach our horses…
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Making a Barrel Horse: Push Style vs Free Runner

In barrel racing there are two kinds of running styles: push style and free runners. They both have their pros and cons. Push style is the more common of the…
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Micromanaging: Are you helping or hindering?

You’ve got a wonderfully trained horse. He’s dead broke, bombproof even, if there is such a thing. He listens to your every cue, attentive to the smallest shifts of body…
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Halloween Costume Ideas to Fit Every Budget

Halloween is upon us and with it the last minute rush to figure out costumes for all those fun Halloween barn parties everyone has planned. In case you are still…
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What makes a barrel racer?

Most people in the horse world have at least heard of barrel racing: a somewhat controversial rodeo event that consists of a three-leaf clover pattern around three barrels and the…
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The difference between the reining horse and the cow horse

The reining horse and the reined cow horse, the flashy show-offs of the western showpen. We admire them with their grace, beauty, and refinement, but what is the difference between…
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Mastering the Reining Spin

The reining spin is a coveted pinnacle of achievement for many amateur western riders, yet if you don’t have access to a reining trainer, it can be difficult to teach…
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Teaching the Western Rollback

  The roll-back is a vital maneuver for the western showpen, especially for reining and cowhorse class. Fortunately, it is a relatively simple maneuver once you break it down. Prerequisites…
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The Secrets of the Sidepass

Sidepassing is an important maneuver to master for the western showpen. Many pattern classes – especially ranch horse classes – will ask for sidepassing maneuvers. Sidepassing can be done over…
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Long and Low

In classical dressage, there is a concept called long and low, also known as stretching which is used in the very beginning stages of collection to develop a correct topline.…
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The Anatomy of Collection

Collection, the great holy grail of horsemanship. It’s the unicorn many amateur riders spend years of practice and thousands of dollars chasing. In its simplest form, collection is raising the…
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The difference between a halt and a stop

No matter your discipline, at some point in the show pen you are going to be asked to halt. The halt is a deceptively simple maneuver that is often overlooked…
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Bits 101: “Specialty” Bits

Well, our Bits 101 series is finally drawing to a close. It looks like we'll wrap things up with one last post on "specialty" bits. This article does contain affiliate…
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Bits 101: 10 Common Bit Myths Busted

Myth 1: Anything with a broken mouth piece is a snaffle. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I walk into a tack shop or look at an online…
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Bits 101: The Bitless “Revolution”

    Bitless bridles are one of the most controversial points of the horse industry. They can be anything from the traditional vaquero bosal to the increasingly common mechanical hackamore.…
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Bits 101: Leverage Bit Basics

Let’s start with some basic parts of all leverage bits. There are the cheeks, which are made up of the purchase and the shank. Then there is the mouth piece…
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Bits 101: Western Snaffle Basics

Friday’s article kicked off the new Bits 101 series with a discussion on the most common mouth pieces in bits. Today we pick up with a discussion of snaffles, the…
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Bits 101: Mouth Pieces

    Today will kick of a new series on western bits. We will start by discussing the basic types of mouth pieces. Mullen mouth These bits are very mild.…
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Common Mistakes That Many Riders Make When Catching a Horse

Catching is one of the most common problems faced by horse owners. So, if you are struggling with catching your horse, know that you are not alone. Most of us…
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Why the “Rescue” Label Can Do More Harm Than Good

This is a direct follow-up to Friday’s article on The Secret to Turning Every Horse Into Your Dream Horse. When you hear a horse labeled as a “rescue,” what is…
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The Secret to Turning Every Horse Into Your Dream Horse

I’ve had several friends ask me “how do you always manage to find these amazing horses?” They look at the horses I have and seem to think that I have…
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Ranch Halter: The Most Overlooked Versatility Class

Ranch Versatility has taken the stock horse show circuit by storm, providing a fresh arena for competitors to flock to. Versatility is generally made up of six classes -- ranch riding,…
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5 Things Your Horse Should Know Before Going to a Horse Show

I know, a little late to the party. With summer drawing to a close (please don’t remind me), most show circuits are winding up as well, but it’s still not…
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Why your horse is the best trainer you will ever have

As equestrians, we are always (or should always be) on the lookout for good teachers we can learn from. As amateur equestrians though, we don’t always have the resources to…
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Clicker Training: Dogs vs Horses

Clicker training is a controversial topic in the horse world that gained popularity along with the rise of the natural horsemanship movement. Some hail it as a humane way to…
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No frog, no hoof

  A common saying in the horse industry is “no hoof, no horse.” I’ve taken that saying one step further: “no frog, no hoof.” I am studying under my father…
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Is “anthropomorphizing” really as dangerous as people say it is?

Oh yes, I just went there. This is a huge taboo to some people who insist that horses are working animals who should be classified as livestock while others prefer…
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Training a Bombproof Horse

This one of the most common questions in the industry: how do I get my horse bombproof? First, I don’t like the term “bombproof.” It implies that a horse will…
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Patterning: Barrels, Poles, and Beyond

There are many different philosophies out there about how to “pattern” a horse on barrels or poles. One prevalent method that I see a lot though is what I refer…
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Dealing with Chronic Illness as an Equestrian

So far, I have kept most of my blogging focused on the horses. However, given my current struggles with seizures, I think this is a good time to address the…
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Slower doesn’t mean collected

    There seems to be a bit of a disconnect for some riders in the western show pen. There is still a misconception for some riders that slower somehow…
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Why being on the forehand is detrimental to your horse

Last week we discussed the importance of knowing the ‘why’ behind everything you do with your horse. Here is an important ‘why’ that is sometimes skipped over because so many…
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1 Exercise To Collect the Trot and Extend the Walk

For some riders, getting that collected western trot and a forward walk that doesn’t look like the horse is wading through molasses is a constant battle. I have found that…
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The Difference Between a Breast Collar and a Pulling Collar

The pulling collar is popular among working ranchers and ropers as a practical tack choice. The have also been gaining popularity along with AQHA’s new ranch horse pleasure class as…
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Teaching the Western Backup

The western backup is one of the maneuvers that is seen as simple by so many, but actually takes quite a bit of training to get all the pieces in…
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The Trained Monkey Bandwagon

In riding, we tend to focus our efforts and education on learning the “how” of everything. “How do I warm up my horse?” “How do I know my saddle fits…
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Standing While Mounting

  This may seem like such a small and insignificant exercise, but it far more important than many people realize. Too often I see people who need someone to hold…
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Hippotherapy: Horses as Therapy

Animals are widely considered to be therapeutic for humans, but none so much as the horse. Physical Therapy There are many therapeutic riding programs throughout the world. The technical term…
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Facing the Fear Monster

We’ve all faced this one at some point in our riding career. Maybe you had a accident with broken bones and shattered confidence. Or maybe you lost the one horse…
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Bonding with Your Horse: Are you his friend or his leader?

It is common to hear horse owners talking about their “bond” with their horse. Some see “bonding” as a sort of mystical art that is the pinnacle of horsemanship while…
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Why “Heels Down” Is Right Out

 No matter your level of riding, we’ve all been there. Constantly fighting to keep those heels down. It’s a mantra that get drilled into us from day one. But is…
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4 Keys to a Good Warmup

 The warmup is a vital part of training that is too often overlooked. Sometimes you see riders walking their horses in the warmup letting them get strung out and lazy.…
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Top 10 Things to Remember When Horse Shopping

1. Know what you want before you start shoppingThis is one of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of buyers make. They have enough money saved up to buy…
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Toddlers in Timeout: Is this really a human phenomenon?

Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve probably been an aunt, uncle, or cousin to a toddler at some point. So, you’ve probably experienced the joys of dealing with a…
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9 Good Horse Training Habits

1. Let the horse catch you We’ve all been there. It’s 4am the morning of the show. Everything is packed. The trailer is loaded and sitting in the driveway. You’re…
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Teaching a Horse How to Learn

This is a follow-up to my June 16th article What does it mean for a horse to have “a lot of heart?” At first, this one sounds like an oxymoron,…
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Practice Until You Can’t Get it Wrong

Riding is like any sport. It takes practice to get good, but it is not enough to practice until you can get it right. If you want to become truly…
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What does it mean for a horse to have “a lot of heart?”

Have you ever been mystified when hearing a trainer or rider comment that they like a horse with “a lot of heart?" This is a phrase that is often thrown…
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Why you don’t need an arena to train and how a lack of facilities can be an advantage

There is a common misconception that you need a "proper" arena to train horses. I’ve heard too many people justify giving up on their show dreams by saying: “Well I…
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The Big Bit Band-Aid

One of the big controversies in the horse world, particularly in the western arena, is over-bitting. The show pen seems to have developed the mentality that bigger is better and…
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HERDA: The Poco Bueno Legacy

HERDA In recent years, the Poco Bueno sireline has raised a bit of controversy. As the bloodline associated with the genetic disorder hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA), they often…
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3 Exercises Every Horse Needs to Know (Part 3): Yielding the Hindquarters

This is part 3 of a series covering my 3 most important exercises that every horse needs to know to make them a safe riding companion: Lunging Lateral flexion at…
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3 Exercises Every Horse Needs to Know (Part 2): Lateral Flexion of the Poll (not the neck)

This is part 2 of a 3-part series that will cover my 3 most important exercises that every horse needs to know to make them a safe riding companion: Lunging…
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3 Exercises Every Horse Needs to Know (Part 1): Lunging

I’ve had several people tell me, “I would be so scared to try that with my horse, you are so brave.” It makes me chuckle when I hear this because…
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Driftwood: A Quarter Horse Legend

Over the years, researching quarter horse pedigrees has become a bit of a hobby, so I decided to start compiling all that research to share with all of you lovely…
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Caravaggio’s Horse: The Genius Beneath the Madness

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is known as one of the greatest painters of his time. Critic Miles Unger says it best when he states that Caravaggio is best known for…
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3 Secrets to Improve Your Riding

As riders, we are always looking for that magical secret to develop our riding. There are a few simple keys that I’ve discovered that advanced my riding overnight. The most…
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