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 ūüôā

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 ūüėČ


  • 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


Other Hand Exercises – Summary

dressage test


It struck me a while back that a lot of people spend¬†a lot of time¬†‘straightening’ their horses, helping them to become more symmetrical, to help them be balanced when being ridden. It all made sense to me as horses, like all animals, have a ‘dominant’ side and a ‘passive’ side. This means one side works first when doing things and can be slightly stronger BUT¬†the passive side works just as hard at supporting the dominant one and is an integral part of how we move and do things. What the ‘dominant side’ does though is make us all slightly more left or right in our bodies…and our minds.

When working on straightness training with my horse Solly I realised quickly that I too needed to balance my body to be able to ride more symmetrically. The more I thought about¬†symmetry and asymmetry¬†the more I realised it wasn’t just about working my Other Hand (OH) to help me become ambidextrous, it was about becoming balanced in my WHOLE BODY. This is because it takes the body as a WHOLE to be symmetrical.

When starting working on my OH exercises, stirring things, using my pen, knife or computer mouse I had to seriously look at how I actually did things with my normal hand. This action in itself helped me to break down how my normal hand works when doing certain actions but as I worked through the¬† OH tasks I realised my whole body needed to be worked on, I’ll give you an example….



When I started stirring my horses feed in his big bowl, my normal hand was easy, I didn’t have to think about it, it was completely done with unconscious competence. With my¬†OH though I had to study what my normal hand did to recreate it at all. I had to study how my hand worked, where my fingers were on the spoon, how my wrist worked, how my arm didn’t move much and also how I was standing!!


I realised with my OH when stirring things my elbow stuck out, my shoulders were working too hard and my whole body was leaning away from the action. I went back to doing it slowly with my normal hand and started to put the small pieces together to arrange myself better when working my OH. I put my elbow in, moved my wrist more, got my fingers into position for better leverage and lent my body INTO the action to give it support and weight when stirring…hey presto I started to stir things with my OH much more efficiently and without making my body ache.

With every task I try to do with my OH I realise I need to work on my whole body to get it balanced to do that task. Is my stance correct, are my feet pointing in the right direction, are my hips aligned or crooked, is my back at the right angle or is it leaning badly. Becoming symmetrical is about balancing both sides of the body equally, not just about using our OH.

Also I realised that to achieve the symmetry I was looking for I had to take it easy on myself and sometimes admit I can’t do something as well as I’d like because I could end up sore or achy and that defeats the object of the exercise as it would stop me doing something due to pain and then make me reluctant to try again. This too is how horses can get so with them and ourselves¬†we need to be consistent and persistent but kind to continue¬†finding our symmetry¬†on a daily basis and to build those unused muscles slowly so that things can be achievable and long lasting. Also remember that being symmetrical is near on impossible SO find what you can do to help, realise what you can’t do and compensate positively when you ride in the knowledge and feel of being as symmetrical as you can for them. Also if possible get you and your horse checked into some ‘therapy’ to help you both become more symmetrically harmonious when riding, such as getting out an Osteopath, Chiropracter, Emmett Practitioner, McTimmoney etc. Good luck and always be AWARE of how your body can affect your horses body ūüôā

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Training Tips: “Slow, small things to try”

When the weather prevents us from doing more, or even small injuries when stabling is required, there are still small things done slowly that can be done to help keep our horse/heart connection and our horses minds exercised. Here is a list of things I do when our Winter puts a stop to big time play or riding, hope it helps you too.


1)      Familiarisation: 

Go nice and slow to start off, build up to more flapping but see what things you can rub on your horse and then around him at a distance. Try areas around him, high, low, in front, beside, behind and work on approach/retreat if something is worrying always releasing when your horse relaxes. This relaxation will get better as you work on releasing at the right moment, when he is calm and happy. 

Try things like: Bags, balls, flags, bunting, stick/string,  rugs, tarpaulin, cone on bum, feed bucket on bum, being near a curtain or going under a curtain or washing line (you could set up a curtain/line at stable door once your horse is okay with flapping plastic), you walking like you’re drunk to and around him, umbrella, rattles (can put small stones into a small water bottle), whistles, singing, fireworks (use a firework cd) saddle, bridle.

Can you take a saddle pad and ask for relaxation of the head as you slowly approach/retreat it up his neck…he‚Äôll learn to lower his head when something is worrying on his neck and it‚Äôll fall off over his ears rather than raising his head.

Can you touch him ALL over without worry.

Can you go under his belly….only when totally good with everything…a very BIG ASK.


2)      Feel game (touching):

  1. See if you can bring his head down for relaxation, work with your hand behind his ears (poll) or slight pressure on rope/halter under chin first. Does his head come up when you try moving your hand quickly near his head? Can you put a wee bit of pressure on the rope under halter to ask him to relax down when you do this, if he drops his head immediately then stop moving your hand for a quick release for him…this can help to train him for a response of relaxation if in a difficult situation.
  2. Can you ask for his head down with your hand over his neck to halter and bridle him. This helps to bring relaxation but also to help put his teeth in a good position for him to ‚Äėtake‚Äô the bit himself and not knock his teeth in the process if you are bitting your horse.
  3. Can you ask him to move one step back to put his bum on a wall. Most horses are worried about what’s behind them so this can help you find trust in each other
  4. Can you ask him to move one step sideways to put his side on wall. This also will help with claustrophobia and trailer loading.
  5. Can you ask him to put a foot (or place a foot with your hand or rope around leg)  in a bucket or on a breeze block, on a carpet piece or on a tarp Рjust one foot. Once he’s done one foot try working on another etc.
  6.  Can you teach him to ground tie?
  7. Can you teach him to back up from his tail?
  8. Can you teach him to move forward with a rope around one front leg?
  9. Can you teach him to move backwards with a rope around his back legs? (good familiarisation with ropes around legs is a must and you being behind him must be in place for numbers 7, 8 and 9)
  10. Can you back him into stable working first with bringing him out, in, out etc.
  11. Can you back him out of a stable, working as above.


3)      Focus/Driving game (no touch):

  1. While keeping your feet still can you ask him to move one or two steps backwards and one or two steps over/away from you and touch a cone?
  2. Can you ask him to sidle to a mounting block. You can work on asking him to move over to a wall first as in the FEEL game. All of these are for just one or two steps, nothing big or fast.
  3. Can you half circle/squeeze him into his stable?
  4. Can you half circle/squeeze him out of his stable?
  5. Can you ask him  to back up one/two steps before putting his feed down?


Also think about getting one obstacle and working all the above with that ie: a plastic bag. Can you use if for familiarisation in all areas. Can you ask him to put his front foot then back foot on it. Can you ask him to sidepass over it. Can you ask him to squeeze over it and round it etc. See how much you can do with just ONE THING.

Maybe print this out and tick things off as you work on them and I hope that gives you some fun things to try out that are do-able in a small space without much movement.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Other Hand Exercises – Idea’s





Here is a list of things you can and should try out with your Other Hand, make them part of a routine and get into working with both hands, using both sides of your body and brain. 


Stirring РCoffee, tea, dog/cat/horses feed. Cooking, 

Brushing РYour hair, your teeth, your dog/cat/horse, 

Horse stuff РBrush. Put on saddle or bridle from other side. Put on rugs from other side. Mount to ride from other side. Fill haynets. Carry buckets. Poo pick stable or field. Lead your horse from other side.

Writing & Computers РComputer mouse, using tablet or mobile phone screen. Writing notes or shopping lists. Turning the page on a book, 

Clothing РPutting on your jacket with other arm first. Putting on trousers with other foot first, 

Household skills РCarrying cups and plates. Sitting on sofa with legs tucked under you. Dishing out food onto plates. Washing up. Cleaning windows. Vacuuming. Sweeping a yard. Using a rake in the garden. Dusting or cleaning. 

Arts & Crafts  Painting a wall or a picture. Try sewing, 


And many many other tasks…keep finding things to try out.
Practise makes Progress. The more you try the easier it becomes.


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Other Hand Exercises – Week 5

downloadOnto week 5 for our OHx’s.

How are you doing? are you managing some or all of the tasks? Have you found yourself getting better with practice? are somethings helping your whole body become more balanced? Have you done lots of things not on the lists with your OH? I hope so.

I find that by doing these things over Winter when I have time to practice that I am soon doing them throughout the year and month by month I feel much more balanced. I especially feel it when riding, my body feels and seems straighter, I can do things with both left and right sides of my body and I know that this is helping my horse to be straighter underneath me. I also highly recommend that you work on balance and straightness training for your horse so that you can both work symmetrically together.

Here are week 5’s exercises…have fun with them.

Week 5 ‚ÄstCleaning and Cutting skills.

Beginners: Using washing up spongue, cloth or brush with your OH. Also try using duster/cloth for cleaning house/windows. Lastly just turn the pages of your book with your OH, the little things make all the difference for working on your symmetry and brain.

Medium: Harder tasks can be trying to fill your horses haynets and poo picking your horses stables and fields (pretty hard), cutting bread and veg with OH too.

Advanced: Hard tasks of using a broom on your horses yard or a rake in your garden and also try your vacuum. Vacuuming or using a broom are great tasks as you can use 4 different position which will help with your flexibility and also trot and canter positions, here is a picture of this:


Pic 1 = Right hand / Left foot forward.  A diagonal stance which helps with your trotting.
Pic 2 = Right hand / Right foot forward. This stance will help balance your body for Right Canter Leads.
Pic 3 = Left hand / Right foot forward. A diagonal stance again which will help with trotting.
Pic 4 = Left hand / Left foot forward. Great for symmetry with Left Canter Leads.

Remember with all these vacuuming stances to keep your body straight, upright upper body and to change hands and feet to make sure you do all the stances.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Making Plans

We all like to make plans and we all enjoy different bits of those plans

  1. We may like the beginning where¬† things are new and exciting and we write down all our idea’s, putting things into order and get ready to go BUT often if things put you off starting then you may not start at all.
  2. Some of us like the middle bit where¬† the first scary bit has been scaled and we settle into the routine of the ‘plan’ at hand and it often makes us feel safe but it can often halt our progress.
  3. Others like to rush to the end without often really taking enough time over the middle bit where it matters most . These people do finish the task but sometimes procrastinate about another start.So, figuring out which one you are is very helpful as you can then be aware of what you normally do when starting a new thing. From there you can work well in the knowledge that you need to enjoy all three parts of a PLAN.

Another thing we often do is make a big thing about getting or having a plan. We often put a date when we want to start or end¬† which puts pressure on us before even begin, this is why New Years resolutions are often marked for failure, especially if you want to do something outside like horsemanship or getting fit, as the weather can be against us and if we’re one of the people that has difficulty starting something then our plan has stopped before it’s begun and that can be the end of our enthusiasm and the plan altogether.

SO…how can we help our plans GO to plan?

Firstly we need to be very realistic about what we want such as I want to feel fitter because it will be good for me and my horse OR I want to help my horse find relaxation in our training so that it’s more fun for us both. Usually if we try something like ‘I want to loose 3 stone before Easter’ and it’s only just past Xmas or ‘I want to ride a 50k endurance ride’ without any smaller plans to get there, is¬†not setting yourself up for success. Remember too that it’s not just about physical success or failure it’s about mental and emotional success or failure. If you take care of your mental state and make tasks achievable then your happiness at doing that will help push you on to your goal.

Maybe try writing out a plan with three different scales to help you on good days and hard days. The three scales I use for whatever plan I make are: Beginners, Medium, Advanced. I can have a plan for something like ‘Riding new horse OR¬† jog for fitness’ and it would look something like this:

Beginners:  Riding Рwalk arena in a nice harmonious pace (Fitness Рwalk to gate and back)
Medium:  Riding Рtrot arena in a nice harmonious pace (Fitness Рjog slowly to gate and back)
Advanced: Riding – canter arena in a nice harmonious pace (Fitness – jog fast to gate and back)

I could change each week the gait or distance I do but it gives me a place to back down to or a place to advance without making me feel I’ve not achieved anything. I find if I don’t give myself these ‘permissions’ I often don’t do anything at all and that can become stuck before I’ve begun.¬†Also¬†adjust your plan weekly to make sure you’re working¬†to a plan you can follow¬†but also make sure that it progresses.

I also try not to give myself a date to start or finish or do things like weigh myself for me getting fit as it’s about enjoying the journey, finding¬†my own pace and loving the¬†fresh air and scenery. When I feel fit in myself then to me I’m fit. It’s the same with my horsemanship. I know when I’m working better because I don’t have to think about what I’m doing, I don’t get out of breath, I don’t run out of ideas and I don’t realise how much time I’ve been playing until after the session which went well because there were no time restraints on what I was doing.

Having a plan is great but make that plan DO-ABLE for yourself. Don’t worry about what others are doing but ask for help from a good source if you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help and keep progressing if that’s what your goal is. Also don’t over do things and put yourself off doing more or even strain yourself if exercising so that your plan has to be put on hold. If anything happens always make sure you get around to re-starting your plan, don’t just let life get in the way, make time for yourself.

Remember that ‘Practice Makes PROGRESS’ and if your plan is good for you and you adapt as you go then you’ll soon find your goal is achievable.

‘A good plan today is better than the perfect plan tomorrow’ ūüėČ

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy