Spirit – January ’19 (week 1)

SO…this is SPIRIT, he arrived at 12.30 today (17/1/19) on a Gillies big lorry.

His details are:
Free Spirit
Clydesdale x Friesian x Hanovarian x Cob
16 hh at moment (but very bum high so expecting 16.2-17hh when 8yrs old)
5yrs old (born 2/6/2013)

Apart from his breeder he has had one lovely caring home before me and sold only due to the young lady being at University and working hard with her job and recently finding out she’s going to have a baby this year 🙂

I will be taking him slowly and at his own pace through my HorseSavvy Horsemanship training, working through some fun Agility and teaching him to be ridden bitless so that we can have a long, fun relationship together.  This is the beginning of our journey together and I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures  🙂

Day 1:
Here are some pics of him arriving, the walk to his new home/field and having his first dinner with us.



Just off Gillies lorry





Very calm walk to the field





In own paddock for first night or two to help him settle and not be bossed around by Stormy





Rugged for the cold night and some dinner with plenty of hay and fresh water






He is very  calm and happy to just looking at our two older horses Stormy and Tara. We had them separated by two electric fences over night. This is to help Spirit get his bearings, feel safe and to settle in calmly but also to allow our two to get used to him in their field. it worked out very nicely, all calm within an hour or so, Stormy pacing a bit and pooing his territory but Spirit just keeping his head down and eating his hay. They all ate their dinners calmly and we left them for the night.


DAY 2:

Everything going really well, Spirit has such a lovely nature and Storm and Tara very calm so we opened up our big horses field to allow Storm and Spirit to touch noses over just one fence (made sure electric off so they don’t get zapped whilst being nice to each other). It went so well. Calm and Spirit giving calming/baby signals to Stormy (lowering of head, licking/chewing, following and mirroring him and turning head away). After a while they stopped parallel to each other so I put hay in front of both of them and they happily munched away at the hay. Tara stayed at the breakfast station eating hay, she will visit Spirit in her own time and when she knows the boys are friends and isn’t in the way of male bonding…wise girl 😉




Standing about 16 hh at moment, very bottom high which means his withers are playing catch up, he will fully mature around 8yrs old






Enjoying a wither scratch






Stormy goes to meet Spirit when we let him out to say hello, keeping one fence between them allows Spirit to move away if he feels he needs to but also allows them to smell each other and get used to one another





Nose to nose…this is how horses greet and meet each other 🙂






After parallel following and mirroring each other they stand for a while next to each other SO I give them both some hay and they’re happy to eat next to each other with the fence between them





Go down to see Spirit for a while before dinner and he looked happy to see me and even started walking towards me when I called his name, what a nice boy he is




Wanted to measure his height SO started off some Horsemanship Familiarisation, first with the tape measure. He wasn’t sure at first but quickly realised it was okay, this is a great way to build trust and get our connection




I then put the tape opened up a bit on the floor and after sniffing it when I bent to touch it he quietly and easily walked over it. This is teaching me a lot about his responses and reactions to things so we can start having more ‘conversations’ about things, energy, motion, noise etc.





Here I ask him to touch the ‘spirit level’ that I use with the tape measure to measure his height





Fed, watered, plenty of hay for the night and rugged so nice and snuggly

as going to be a bitterly cold night tonight.  Nitey nite Spirit, sleep tight 😉




DAY 3: 

Today we put Spirit in with Stormy and it was such a calm, happy event it was really a non-event 😉 We kept Tara separate for now to help the boys bond, she’ll be in with them tomorrow 🙂


Stormy following Spirit (or is he moving him on? 😉







Spirit checking out the fab views. He can see horses across the glen, sheep in the field below, cars on the road, houses, lights, noises and smells…big views






Storm and Spirit eating hay peacefully near each other 😉





Storm and Spirit, a view I will never tire of






A little bit of ‘liberty play’:


Familiarisation: getting Spirit used to being touched with the training arm/stick and string






Touching with hands is very important, Spirit likes being touched and around humans which is super




Hanging out together





Familiarisation of energy: this is a hard one at liberty but I wanted to see how my energy/skipping about affected him, he wasn’t overly worried but will get this better once I start working on line




DAY 4:

Today after breakfast I let the boys and Tara out together, opened up all the fences so they can meet each other properly and have enough space to get out of each others way if necessary. Spirit and Tara exchanged breath, which is how horses meet each other, and Stormy and Tara taught him some of the ‘house rules’ that horses do to make sure everyone knows their place in the herd. Spirit is so non-confrontational and has such good social skills that all went really well. He also was confident enough in himself to check out the whole bottom area of the field, poo piles, hay piles, put his nose onto the cones and into the tyre stacks. Loving his confidence, calmness and the every now and then he looked to me for a ‘good boy’ too.



Spirit and Tara ‘nose to nose’ greeting






So photogenic against the beautiful Perthshire hills






The BOYS 🙂






Spirit checking Tara out more, Tara lets him know where her personal space ‘bubble’ is and he stays on the edge of that out of respect 🙂





I hang out with the herd for a bit…I call this Undemanding Time where we all just hang out together





DAY 5:

Comfort Zone Training – Solo in-hand/riding

Part 1

Helping a horse that is ‘herd bound’ is challenging as we need to help the horse grow it’s trust in us and it’s comfort zone area so that it feels safe going out alone. Easier said than done for some horses.

Our Stormy has been the member of our herd since 11 months old, he’s been surrounded by 4 other members to start with but now at the age of 15 he is just one of two left in our herd. He is happy to go out and about with other herd members and has done that throughout his life but the other horse left now is our aged Tara who can do small bits of in-hand/riding work but really is retired and a bit slow and doddery  SO, how do I help Stormy learn to be brave enough to go out alone?



Our first session was mostly walking in the field next to the horses home field. Walked and played some games to help his brain think, these games were slow backup and sideways moves. He was okay for a while but I could feel he was worried about going further down the steep part of the hill SO I retreated with him back towards the home field, this allowed him to breathe and think, to respond and not react BUT he had a couple of slips on the hill where it has been raining heavily and is now muddy and also touched his leg onto a thistle and he rushed off back home to the gateway….his reaction was quick and although mud and thistles don’t normally worry him I could see this would make him react if he wasn’t totally connected to me first SO I got him back and did a small bit of walking about near the gateway to their field to end on a good note.


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Training Tips: “Keep the Partnership”

The Partnership between horse/human is delicate and like all good friends you have to take time to really listen to what each other has to say, this way you learn to truly have a conversation and each party of the partnership can learn to enjoy and trust their friend more and more.

In these pics I am having a conversation with Big Storm. There is absolutely no way I am going, nor want, to argue with my friend but I also want to help him to learn to listen and trust me in new situations more (or even situations he’s not recently familiar with).

The saying ‘take his idea, make it your idea, trust together’ is the one that goes around my head all the time when with my horses (also with my husband and friends!




Stormy decided he needed to back off from something it was the noise of the stream going under the road at this point). I took his idea of going backwards and asked him to do it a wee bit faster than he was thereby making it MY idea and he relaxed and when I asked him to move forward he did so nicely.

I’d understood his point of view, took it, worked it and allowed him to change his mind and follow my idea .



Here I asked him to turn right, he wanted to turn left so I took his idea of going left and asked him to do it faster and a full circle thereby coming back to the starting point of my original request of going right which he did easily.

It’s almost a distraction technique by using their thoughts, allowing them to fulfil that thought and be free to take my request/thought more easily. With horses that have a strong will, which can also be a sense of worry, allowing them to have a say in the interaction you can dispel that worry about something (which would lead to a worry about you and your partnership/leadership).



The pics below show our 2nd ride from above and us going away from home and his herd mate Tara and we see a huge buzzard flying from post to post along a fence. I acknowledge what he has seen (pic 1) and then turn away from it to release any tension (pic 2). After a bit I turn him purposefully around using a hindquarter yield and go back towards where we turned the first time and the buzzard area and we go further this time and because we have more trust we manage to turn another way, over a stream and jump back all with relaxation, confidence and a good connection :














  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Looking for a New Horse


Questions, questions…always questions when thinking or talking about getting a new herd member. What breed, sex, colour? what temperament, spirit, personality? height, age, training done? All of these and more have been circling in my mind just thinking about making the decision to maybe THINK about getting a new horse and herd member 🙂

BUT…what am I actually looking for in a horse when I go out looking at potential partners?


  1. HEIGHT: 16.hh + for me to feel comfortable that it can take my height and weight. For me the front legs say a lot and I look for a squarer top to the chest from the legs, which says to me it’s a ‘heavier’ type of horse rather than a thinner type of horse who has a upside down V shape at the top of legs/chest.
  2. AGE: 4-7 years so that it’s had a start but I can put the foundation of ground work, bitless riding and agility there.
  3. GOOD START: I’m looking for a horse that has had a good start in life (I don’t want a huge project with a horse that is fearful of life).
  4. CURIOUS: I’ll be looking at responses not reactions. seeing if the horse has an interest in surrounds, is not spooky or reactionary and hopefully naturally attracted to me for that all important connection.
  5. PERSONALITY / SPIRIT:  I’m looking at spirit and personality of the horse. I would like a thinking horse (left brained) with a medium spirit (introvert = extrovert)
  6. WHORLS: I will be looking at face and body whorls and will try some horsemanship ‘tests’ to see if it responds or reacts, how big or small a reaction and how it takes to maybe learning one new thing to show me how that process affects it.
  7. Sex/Colour/Looks: just don’t come into it 🙂


What am I wanting to do with new horse? Well, a bit of everything really. I would love to hack out again with Mark and Stormy but also I love teaching and I want a new horse to be able to enjoy that process with me. I would like to be able to teach some lateral/dressage moves for flexibility and good body dynamics and also that it enjoys a wee jump. A good all rounder and a happy riding horse hopefully.


I will have to look beyond what I see initially and think about how I could organise progress for the horse. I want a horse I love and that loves me, that’s very important in the mix of things 🙂


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Training Tip Video: “Point 2 Point”

This ‘game’ is one I use often to help teach horses (and myself) to become straighter when riding. If your horse is used to a contact then you may find going to a loose rein difficult, try using a slightly loose rein and get the rein longer and longer as you work at it, often a horse can become ‘lost’ if it’s used to a contact so don’t upset it, just try to get on a loose rein as you go 🙂

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Training Tip Video: “Bridling”

Bridling can be difficult with a big horse so asking for the horse to lower his head is a prerequisite to relaxation whether it’s bitless or bitted. Here are some tips to help you and your horse with happy bridling.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Training Tip Video: “Sun cream application”

Some of us have horses with delicate muzzles that get quite burned in the heat of the sun. It can be very painful for the horse so we put sun cream on ours to help stop that but it can often be hard to get the cream on their noses. I recommend using kids sun cream with as high a factor as possible (50+) and without any fragrance and the technique I use is in the video below…

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Field Agility 1

Moving on from arena agility where we gain confidence and our connection to our horse, we then went to Liberty Challenges, using our ability now to keep that connection without a halter and rope. This next stage moves us into a bigger space where we can not only test our connection together but allows us more freedom to use canter and more transitions. Enjoy 🙂

Field Agility 1

Obstacles are:
1) Pedestal: front feet on then walk over
2) Pole/Log: Sidle over then sidepass off
3) Trot poles x 6
3) Rope circle in canter to left and right
5) Under archway in trot
6) Fig 8 with 2 x jumps in trot and canter
7) Cone weave with 8 cones in trot
8) Curtain: Walk or trot under
9) Tarpaulin: walk/halt/backup/walk off
10) Round pens: Fig 8 canter with simple lead change
11) Scary Corridor: canter through
12) Tyre on rope: drag behind you then turn horse and drag whilst backing up
13) Familiarisation: extreme with 2 x flags
14) added extra to calmly walk through scary corridor to end 😉


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Liberty Challenge 11 (2018)

First Agility course this year (2018).

Arranged it in a serpentine pattern.



  1. Front foot or feet into hula hoop or on a mat. Just looking for a foot connection.
  2. Under a flapping curtain. Looking for relaxation and bravery.
  3. Labyrinth. Here I’m looking for flexibility, straightness and specific foot falls.
  4. Jump. Looking for a nice transition walk/trot/walk.
  5. Halt between barrels. Great to have synchronised halt and not worried about squeeze.
  6. Trot weave. Connection from the side and for horse to be more independent than just following.
  7. Tarp. This can be where you transition, or do a turn, anything .
  8. Transitions: between tarp and log transitions and into sidepass here.
  9. Sidle over log. Looking to be specific with feet here.
  10. Trot through flag corridor. Can be any ‘spooky/flappy’ things really. Just looking for calmness and bravery.
  11. Trot poles. Hoping horse has some bounce in it’s trot and for it to look where it’s going.
  12. Pedestal. Looking for happiness to stand on something with a bit of height in it. If you don’t have a pedestal you can start with a carpet or a reinforced pallet.


Liberty Video with me and Solly (missed putting tarp down #7)

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


What have you been teaching your horse today?


Every time you are with your horse you are teaching her something SO…’what are you teaching your horse today?’

You might be teaching her to stand patiently to be fed or saddled. You may be teaching her that it’s peaceful and calm to be around you. You may be teaching her to walk with you step for step. Praise a lot for the good things. Stroking, saying good girl, standing still together and smiling a lot can all be rewards for your horse.

BUT you might also be teaching her to be impatient or excitable, to walk off when trying to mount or to be saddled. You may inadvertently be teaching her to be pushy or to bite but by giving a treat or her dinner when she is being like that.  You must try to ignore the things you don’t want or have caused your horse to do by rewarding at the wrong time. Learning can often be the smallest bit of bad timing such as you stopping what you’re doing when your horse is doing something you don’t want. Unfortunately stopping at the wrong time causes the horse to think they’ve done the right thing. Better to stop on a good note after a short session than a bad note having taught the wrong thing.

You are also teaching your horse what your own energy, body language and verbal language means. Try to be mindful of your own way of being so as not to teach your horse that your high negative energy means her energy to be up too. If you are fearful or worried do not take that to your horse and expect them to be calm and quiet, you must find a way of lowering your inner energy to have a calm thinking horse. Also do not go around saying negative things to your horse or calling her names, they do not understand the words but they certainly understand the energy behind them, the tone and the inflection. Ignore the things you don’t want and praise what you do like, in yourself too.

SO…be aware of everything you do and what response or reaction you get from your horse. Be aware of all that your horse does and mostly try to get  the little things between you done well so that bad habits don’t become big problems,.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy