Training Tip: Consistency vs Variety

“Consistency is a great teacher BUT Variety is the spice of life”

Solly in the pics is circling with jumps. When I stand still he can jump two jumps on that circle = Consistency.
When I start walking doing ‘moving circles’ we go to the next jump up = Variety.

We can stand still or move depending on whether I want to give him either consistency or variety…change his direction and we can get both of those on the other side too…great opportunity for fitness training too :)

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  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


HorseSavvy Training Criteria


Relaxation (confidence & rhythm)
Cooperation (willingness)
Impulsion (balance & energy)
Flexibility (straightness)

My 4 HorseSavvy criteria basics are what I use for a good session with my horses whether it’s long or short. Finding each of these main 4 things in all that we do is important but the first one, relaxation, is the key to all the others being good.

Relaxation is needed in all things to help the horse learn, a worried horse cannot learn.

Cooperation is what is needed to have a partnership, a bond, a connection and our breathing/energy/body cues get more and more invisible for that connection to be great.

Impulsion is when your whoa equals your go, on a scale of 1-10 impulsion is a good 5, easy abd light to go, easy and light to halt.

Flexibility is where your horse is equal in muscles to his left and right, to have this symmetry is vital for straightness in all you do and allows you to not have to use your reins to keep your horse straight.

When riding or just playing these things are good to keep an eye on.

(Pic shows Solly doing a relaxed levade over a jump, cooperation with my ask to not jump it but to lift his front legs and gently pop them over the jump and halt…this shows his lightness to go and also to halt. His flexibility and straightness is shown by the ease he does this move and how well he sidepassed towards me to get the obstacle from under him)

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Training Tip: “Walking your Horse Out”


There are many reasons you might want to walk your horse out instead of riding out. Your horse may need fittening up or he may be unrideable but okay to walk out so it could be great exercise physically and fun mentally for him. You may be working on getting a better relationship with your horse so walking out would really help you bond OR you may just enjoy walking your horse out.
Sometimes, when a horse is sceptical or worried about being out hacking it can help to walk out in-hand regularly to familiarise to different surroundings, sounds, sights and smells. Once you get used to things you can always decide to mount and ride a bit and if you are riding you can always decide to jump off and walk a bit too.

For Solly and me, walking out in-hand is really helping us to bond in an unfamiliar environment, it helps us look at things together face-to-face where I can read him better. I also have two ageing dogs and this helps give me my much needed exercise. I really enjoy walking out and it’s great to have my good friend Solly out with me.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Training Tip Video’s: “Subtle Ridden Conversations”

The video below shows Solly and I having a very subtle conversation about body dynamics, energy, core strength, foot falls and flexion.

If you look closely you can see how all I do affects all Solly does. It’s a close, almost invisible dance of finding our inner most riding connection. Slowly, using this more, we will flow and dance more. We find our balance together and then we find our go and whoa buttons to make sure they’re working through my breathing. Soon we are finding our hips and shoulder connection and then my hands to his nose. Being able to talk to every part of his body allows me to find the softness within the strength of muscles in places I have in my thoughts. Being able to read his muscles too allows me to hear what he is saying back to me so that our dance gets more and more harmonious.

It takes a TON of focus from me so if I’m tired then I am pretty sure Solly is. We dance for short periods but as often as possible. Soon we will weave the dance tapestry to more harmony and fluidity. 

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy




Training Tip Video’s: “Inner Core Energy – On/Off”

Working on the concept that our ‘inner energy’ can connect with our horse, then testing it can be interesting.
To be able to use our inner energy to create movement but to then be able to take that away and only have our ‘outer energy’ or movement working and not have movement…how is this possible?
For the most part, if the ‘inner and outer energy’ isn’t separated and the horse/human connection isn’t refined and trusting enough, movement of anything to a horse can mean ‘go’. This is because firstly our horses work on learned behaviours and a predator with energy usually means go AND we also haven’t learned to go inside ourselves and learn how to separate our inner intent/focus/energy from our body movements. This can take time but horses understand it very well once they trust that we, as predators, can do it.
Being able to switch our ‘inner’ core energy on/off is so integral to being connected to our horse, when on the ground and more importantly when riding.
No matter what our body is doing can we ‘switch’ our energy off to create a halt and then bring it back on to create movement?

Hope you find this video intersting….can you see how much focus Stormy has on me? he’s watching my ‘inner focus energy’ to see when it comes and goes even though my body is moving the whole time!!

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Training Tip Video’s: “Turn on the Forehand”

HorseSavvy Teaching Cues are:
1) First teach (slow and steady to allow the horse to ‘get’ what you’re asking.
2) Reinforcing (not force BUT trying to attain lightness and politeness)
3) Refining (invisibility of cues…soft, light and connected)

By continually striving for Refinement of all we teach and learn we will end up with a soft, harmonious connection on the ground and ridden 

Here Solly and I get better at refining a disengagment of the hindquarters into a turn on the forehand.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy




Training Tips: “Spontaneity”



Using kind consistency with our horse training is a super way of helping our horses learn, some horses love a good solid routine. But it can often become boring if overdone and some horses hate being bored SO we need to learn the art of becoming balanced between being CONSISTENT and SPONTANEOUS.

Yesterday I wanted to do something with the horses but with the weather being on/off I didn’t plan anything, in fact I didn’t even take saddles or bridles. When the weather stayed dry it was a ‘LETs DO IT’ moment and I took the opportunity and played/rode both boys with what I had….rope halter and reins for Solly and used those reins to make a cordeo for Stormy. The pics  show the end of a completely spontaneous play/riding session.

What was lovely was that the boys were up for it too and because I had no plan, just wanting a good feel with everything I did, it felt GREAT. Think the boys enjoyed it too <3

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy





Training Tips: “Thoughts on Collection”

21743355_1112526915545234_6815195849651235949_nWe hear a LOT about ‘collection’, being ‘on the bit’ and ‘engagement’. What exactly is this and how do we find it?

The picture above is a sculpture of a horse in ‘self-engagement’. It clearly shows how the whole horse is lifted up, balanced, light and engaged. Engaged from the back hooves, up through the body which lifts the belly and ribs and lightens the forehand and neck which automatically brings the upper neck and head towards the chest with the poll highest.

Look at the fabulously smooth line from the hocks to the ears over the horses back…beautiful. The symmetry of the trotting diagonal legs, they’re matching in line and energy and finally the high poll of the head and the proud headset.

SO…how do we attain this with a bridle?

Well for me I work with ground work first, helping the horse to become more symmetrical left and right, lateral flexions, and once they have the balance with that then I work on asking for longitudinal flexion, long and low to find relaxation across the top of the spine, through natural horsemanship techniques.

With the balance working left and right and then with a relaxed low head, which helps to stretch the back and neck and build good musculature there, it is THEN that I start to ask for that relaxation with energy from the hindquarters to help create the powerful ‘engaged’ feel and look of the horse you see in the picture.

It can take quite some time for a horse to be fit, muscles with relaxation do not happen overnight, it’s asking the horse to ‘body build’, to have a strong, flexible core and to be able to hold that posture for longer and longer. To be able to find this core strength is great and once done well on the ground then we can work on the same principles and training techniques when riding. The horse gets a stronger body with fit muscles which helps them to carry our weight well.

Putting ourselves on the horses back changes the balance of the horse so working on techniques that allow the horse to then find the energy and power from his hindquarters through to the poll over his back when ridden is hard, the reins really have nothing to do with it. The reins, when working correctly, are used to help refine the cues and are taken up when they become slack due to the horses head NATURALLY becoming higher, lighter and proud. Pulling the horses head in through the bridle/reins is an incorrect way of finding ‘engagement’…it is merely a ‘headset’ created by the hands. Engagement is created through the horses core strength, fitness and balance through working from back to front, hindquarters to poll. Every horse knows naturally how to do this when they play or show off with other horses. They often don’t do it for long unless a stallion so to achieve this for us to ride is an art not just one technique..

Our training should help fitten the horse through the ground work, to help them find self-carriage so that they are relaxed, flexible and able to carry us. For us to then ride ‘quietly’ and get out of the horses way so that he can do just that when being ridden is how ‘engagement’ occurs.

In addition to all of this, WE need to be fit enough through core strength and self-carriage to be able to ride such a wonderfully fit and healthy horse.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Training Tips: “Stirrup-less”


Going back to some basic’s is always a good idea as the foundations of good horsemanship and riding are doing the simple things well and then with excellence.

So today Solly and I did some good freestyle riding….stirrup-less and with the reins laying on his neck. I find this sort of basic thing really improves my balance and focus and helps me see how well my riding connection is.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Training Tips: “Listening to your Horse”


Listening to what horses are telling us is an integral part of horsemanship. It helps to keep us as partners as the conversations we have together should be two way, it also helps keep us all safe.

We must remember that no matter how much training, how good our horses are or even how great our connection that horses are prey animals. Some have a huge flight instinct and some are calmer, some run before they can think, others think before they can run. Their innate behaviour is not going to change with training but hopefully through good techniques and helping them to learn how to relax and respond rather than get hyper and react will help them become more rounded and centred and what I think good training should do.

Today I was out playing with some techniques online with big Stormy….he just could not connect to me in one part of the field so I got him to where he was connecting back to me more then retreated to where he felt more responsive and happy. I knew he would not be concentrating in that spot if I decided to ride there so went back to where he was listening to me and rode there.

The next time I go out I will address this issue more as I find it fascinating to be able to take the time to help him (or any horse) that needs more approach and retreat with an issue, so they start to focus and become soft and relaxed and can listen to me because the ‘worrying thing’ is not longer a worry.

This is what made Stormy inattentive….







  • Shelley – HorseSavvy