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’ll learn to lower his head when something is worrying on his neck and it’ll 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 ‘take’ 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 – just 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 – Coffee, tea, dog/cat/horses feed. Cooking, 

Brushing – Your hair, your teeth, your dog/cat/horse, 

Horse stuff – Brush. 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 – Computer mouse, using tablet or mobile phone screen. Writing notes or shopping lists. Turning the page on a book, 

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

Household skills – Carrying 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 – Cleaning 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 – walk arena in a nice harmonious pace (Fitness – walk to gate and back)
Medium:  Riding – trot arena in a nice harmonious pace (Fitness – jog 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’ 😉

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Training Tip Video: ‘Head Down pt 2’ – Relaxation with Treat Training

Here is an update on Sollys Head Down exercise with Treat Training. The first part of this was done 2 weeks ago and we’ve been practising his head down for a treat with me in front of him. He got this pretty quickly and I’ve been working on doing more each time before he gets a treat, bringing a gap of relaxation each time before asking for more. This helps him find relaxation with the ‘click’ I do more than the treat so that I can extend the time more and more before giving him the treat, the treat now is used as a BIG ‘WELL DONE’ and not a first time learning ‘YOU’VE GOT IT’ treat that we started with. 

I also gave it a break so that he didn’t get over enthusiastic about the ‘treat’ and forget the actual training we were doing. This helps us rebalance the issue that can occur of over ‘posturing’ for a treat or mugging. 

This week I’ve just been asking for more than just lowering his head and relaxing for a treat when I’m in front of him, I’ve been standing further away and asking him to walk towards me, lowering his head to my hand for a treat. Each time I’ve done this I’ve been further away than the last time and it’s gone really well, he gets that it’s about coming to me, relaxing with his head down. Here is a short video to show you how it’s working now.




We have been building up the time and distance for this task and are at the stage where Solly comes to me when I give him my raised hand signal and he gets a treat only when I am leaving the field. Huge progress in a short time and task now in his repertoire. Here are pics I took of him working the task from a huge distance to me…what a super clever boy he is.


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy






Other Hand Exercises – Week 4


Already week 4  and I hope you’ve had some success with the other weeks exercises, just to remind you here is a short list of things we’ve done already:

  1. Stirring things – with drinks, doing dogs and horses feeds, when cooking or baking,
  2. Brushing things – Using your knife when buttering, your hair and also your teeth.
  3. Writing and Computer things – Using your computer mouse, using OH on your tablet, even try painting or sewing.


Now onto week 4 – Clothing and household skills.

Beginners: Use and carry cups and plates with OH. Sitting on the sofa with your legs under you…change the leg you sit on regularly to keep your body even.

Medium: Dish out your meals, cakes, biscuits with OH. Change the lead hand or leg when dressing so that you put your shirt and trousers on with OH hand/arm/leg first for a change.

Advanced: Use your kettle and tip/serve from saucepans with OH. Regularly change crossing your legs or arms to the Other Hand/Leg, it will feel strange at first but keep at it.
NOTE: Remember to try these slowly, adjust your body and your mind to working in a different way and build on things slowly, go from the beginners test to the medium and up to advanced in your own speed and time but remember ‘Practise makes Progress’ so keep at it.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Other Hand Exercises – Week 3

downloadI hope you are all getting along well working with your Other Hands over the last 2 weeks. Here is week 3’s Exercises for you 🙂

WEEK 3 – Writing and Computers

Beginners: Use your computer mouse with your OH or if you use your mobile phone or a tablet then use your OH to scroll and tap the screen.
Medium: Try writing simple things like your shopping list with your OH;
Advanced: Try something like painting  (walls or fine art) or sewing with your OH.


NOTE: Also start to think about how you use your body for carrying things. if you always put your shoulder bag strap on your left shoulder then try using it on your right for a change. If you carry your horses grooming kit or bucket in your right hand again try using your left hand now and then.

Training Tip Video: ‘Relaxation with Treat Training’

I’ve been using ‘Treat Training’ for Solly for a few years now and it’s really helped our relationship. Before TT he was obedient and becoming well behaved but I didn’t have his heart, he did things but not with willingness or acceptance and I never just want ‘tolerance’ as I feel it’s not a true Connection. So, I learned my own version of Treat Training to help him ‘get’ what I was asking quicker and he really cheers up and is more willing once he knows quickly that he’s doing the right thing with training. He also used to be a horse that could bite and I never thought I’d be using treats to help train him BUT in fact it’s helped to teach him to NOT bite which is a huge bonus too. 

Here we are today working on Relaxation from in front of his head:


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy




Other Hand Exercises – Week 2



SO, week two and what will we try this week? 

Hopefully you will continue to progress through week one, going from the beginners to advanced stirring exercises and start working on week 2 as well. Remember this is not JUST about working your other hand, it is about working the whole of your body and mind to become more symmetrical. Here are this weeks OHx’s….have FUN 🙂



WEEK 2 – Brushing movements

Beginners: Try using your knife in your OH, eating meals and spreading stuff on bread/toast…if you use Treat Training/Clicker Training for your horse make sure you work from BOTH sides and treat horse with different hand on each side!
Medium: Try brushing your teeth….ALSO make sure you groom your horse using a different hand on each side!
Advanced: Try brushing your hair….CAN you use your horses mane/tail brush with both hands?


NOTE: As you are working through weeks 1 & 2 of these exercises try to think about your body….your body changes your mind and your mind helps change your body.
a) When you sit on the sofa with your legs up do you always sit just one way?  Sit the other way too now and then 🙂
b) When putting your coffee or tea bag into your cup do you always use your normal hand? Use your other hand for this now…and pouring the kettle!!! 🙂
c) When standing do you always rest ONE leg? Try resting the other leg or even better try to stand straight with both legs locked, shoulders straight and neck balanced….can you feel any asymmetry in your legs/hips/pelvis/spine/shoulders/neck/head? Once you realise you are crooked you can start thinking about standing straighter and straighter. This also works when you start checking out how you WALK!! 🙂 


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Other Hand Exercises – Week 1

downloadOur horses and ourselves are all asymmetrical, this is quite normal, we all have one dominant hand and foot and horses have a dominant hoof/leg too, you can see it when you watch them graze and feel it when we ride as it’s always easier to do circles or turn one way than the other unless the horse and rider have done some symmetry training. 

During the year I do quite a lot of symmetry training with my own horses and students but in the Winter I have less opportunity to work with them so I work on myself more and this is what I call my ‘Other Hand Exercises’ . 

SO…what are OHE’s? They are simple things I do to help use my other hand, muscles and whole body to make me more symmetrical and this helps when I ride to keep me and my horses more symmetrical too. I am right handed so I work on my left hand, my husband is left handed so he works on his right hand although funnily enough most left handed people are more adept at this due to the nature of our ‘right handed world’ 😉

I work slowly and as consistently as I can, doing a few small tasks first and building up on it as and when I feel I can progress. I will be putting up tasks weekly and hope you join in with me to help your own symmetry. Remember to go slowly and not to over do it as you can strain muscles (just like your horse can), do what you normally do with your ‘normal’ hand and put in a wee bit of the OH when you can and remember to keep having fun with it.


WEEK 1Stirring with a spoon

Beginners: stir your tea/coffee.
Medium: stir your tea/coffee and try your horses/dogs feed.
Advanced: stir tea/coffee, horses feed, and also when you cook or bake.


NOTE: Today, whilst stirring the horses feed I realised that with my ‘normal’ hand I stand straight BUT when I work with my OH I lean a bit….having now realised this I am making sure I stand straighter when working with my OH. Amazing how, when you become aware of things, how much you notice and it reminded me of a saying I learned a long time ago…hope this
one helps you too.


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy