Comfort Zone Training – 2nd Unit – Session 1

First Session:

This is day 1 of my next ‘7 session unit’ of CZT with Solly. Knowing to make progress from the first week’s sessions I now have to take what we did and learned there to another area so we pushed out of the CZ of the field in the company of husband Mark and his horse Stormy and decided to do a circular walk across a few fields and onto a track back home.

Walking out in-hand allows you to control going into an unfamiliar area without the worry of riding, you can check out the track, make sure the ground is safe and that there is nothing going to make you or your horse jump and if it does then you have time to think about things and only carry on when you and/or your horse are relaxed and happy to continue.

Being with Mark and Stormy helps both Solly and I to be in good company in a situation that may worry us. It also helps from the perspective that I will walk further with Mark beside me on that first outing than I would do on my own so I can really stretch the CZ for me to then be able to do the same walk on my own with Solly and know it’s a safe walk.

We do really well through the first two fields, we’ve been here once before a few months ago so I know the area, the footing and where we’re going which helps us be confident.

At the end of the first two fields we had to go through a new gateway, which I’ve never been through before. There was some ‘blue’ plastic rubbish up on our left, the river really close off the right of the track and an incline up a hill. I ask Solly to follow Storm through the gateway, turn so that I can close the gate and then we walk up the incline together. A little bit of raised ‘energy’ as it’s all new to me but we get through okay.




At the top of the small hill I am faced with a sharp left turn and a similar hill down to the next field. We are now higher up looking down a sharp edge to the river on our right, Solly next to this with me on his left facing going down the hill. I get a little unconfident and have to stop and just  stand and wait while I get my focus and energy back on track. Mark stops too and waits patiently for me. If I was alone I would retreat back to the familiar place of the previous field as the energy in my mind and body could easily affect my horse, from there I could either (a) approach again and go forward or (b) retreat and try again in a bit, the next day, or when I can…today I re-focus and carry on.

The picture on the right shows Solly down the hill looking at the field, checking out the sheep, seeing if there is anything to worry about before carrying on.



Back on track we follow Mark and Storm through the field. Mark has been through the field before when riding out so I know he knows where the safe footing is.

All goes well and about half way through Solly raises his head and looks to the left, we see a couple of people coming down the track outside the field and then he looks to the right where a couple of kids and adult are playing ‘poo sticks’ at the bridge there. He was a bit high headed for a bit but we carried on and I think he soon realised that the track they were on was familiar to him as we’ve walked and ridden down this track to the village in the past.





Once on the track we were okay again, familiar terrain felt easy and comfortable and we all strode out heading back for home.







Nearly home and Solly started to look out for our other horse Tara who we’d left in the field, he also started just checking the track side grazing and herbage out which was good to see, his curiosity back. I was also very chilled out and happy to just walk along in Solly’s company. Soon we were back through the gate into the field and Tara was right there to greet us back home :)


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Comfort Zone Training – part 7

This last session of the 1st unit of CZT has been good,  I rode Solly in the top round pen BAREBACK which is a rare thing for us but it felt GOOD doing it and testing all that we’ve done over the last 6 sessions, it was only a short session so I put another quick session in at the lower field round pen where we did some bareback and bridleless riding. It was very good to feel confident to do this, to be in a comfort zone of the round pen but doing something above and beyond normal riding in bridle and saddle and it also was good to check in with our balance.

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Balance is everything, balance of our connection, of draw/drive, of forward/back, of up/down transitions, of left/right and balance of our emotions.







The next training session will be the start of the next CZ ‘unit’. It will start in the area we worked in today but it will progress to the gate area and  beyond so that we can progress OUT of our present CZ field and into the ‘LEARNING ZONE’…in this zone we learn to take the familiar into the unfamiliar and work until the unfamiliar is familiar thereby widening our CZ.

For more info on Comfort Zones go to my TRAINING TIPS:  ‘Stepping out of your Comfort Zone to Progress’

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Comfort Zone Training – part 6



Today was our 6th CZT session. We did it in the larger area again where we did our 4th session. Today our ground work went very well and apart from the initial ‘getting away from the mounting block’ thing that he seems to have done the last few session, our ridden session was pretty good too.






Firstly our impulsion was there…light off the cues and happy.







Secondly our willingness was there…connected and focused.








Thirdly our flexibility was there…..together in harmony.






And lastly it was FUN. Fun to be in a different area. Fun to have our harmony, focus, willingness and togetherness back.





Short video of some fun doing leg yields today…..few strides one way, straighten up and few strides the other way. Solly and I have to be connected through focus and mind to be able to do this….he looses concentration right at the end!



  • Shelley – HorseSavvy




Comfort Zone Training – part 5



For our fifth session of CZT we went back to the first area, not because of worry but because it was easier to do with the time we had to work on that day.  Everything was smoother from liberty ground work to ridden, Solly was more willing and able and we had some nice impulsion.



SO, things have moved nicely in the right direction and I hope to extend the range of our Comfort Zone outwards to include the next field soon but as we’ve sort of missed Autumn and gone straight into Winter I’ll have to take that into consideration. If the weather deteriorates more then I will be doing mostly ground work in different places to extend our CZ, if the weather becomes milder then the ridden work can continue nicely.







One other thing…I just remembered WHY Solly is a big worried about certain parts of the field!! A week or so ago we came to the field and the boys were all sweated up, we wondered what had caused this, maybe shooting nearby or dogs in field next to ours? Then I remember going to check our water trough and the pipe to it had come off and water was spraying about like a garden sprinkler. I think this happened when Solly was drinking from it and THIS has caused some worry issues in the lower part of the field. I am going to do some ground work training near and then around this obstacle as it may be that he’s not found any relaxation or curiosity about the water sprinkler…just worry and I need to help him sort it out so that it’s not constantly on his mind in that part of the field…SO, approach/retreat to help overcome an issue is imperative 😉


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Picture Quote 9 – “Make a Habit, Break a habit, Make a New Habit”



This fits in very well with the ‘Comfort Zone Training’ series I have just been doing here (look it up on the right side of this Blog).

It reminds us to make good habits with our horses, these habits are the backbone of your training but then you have to break that habit and make a new habit to progress your training. Breaking a habit and incorporating a new bit doesn’t mean leave the original habit behind, it just means you need to move on, even just a step or a minute more, to lengthen/widen the original habit, thereby breaking the original habit and making a new, longer, better, stronger habit.

Habits can be easy things like walking from a stable to the field. First habit would be doing it straight, then you’d break that habit and go for a little walk along a fence THEN into the field, later on you could walk along a fence, down a track and over a stream and back to get to the same field.

It could also be a habit of finding new transitions, more gaits, incorporating lateral work…everything becomes an extension from your original task :)

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Comfort Zone Training – part 4

SO, what has been happening on session 4 with some consistent CZT?
Well, we took our techniques and relaxation to another part of the field and repeated everything, working towards widening our CZ to another area still in the main field. This day we not only tested our relationship in an area we’d not been working in for a while but also with barefoot ‘boots’ on, which isn’t normal, AND just before dinnertime so it was getting to be twighlight-ish…something we rarely do SO….we’ve pushed our CZ in three new ways from the beginning of the week!


This is huge progress, it just felt right to do it and the circumstances allowed for it as I started off trimming his feet in our Agility arena area rather than where we’ve been feeding them recently SO this was a change of area already and I used this opportunity to start here rather than go back to where we’d been working beforehand.

We did quite a lot of ground work to start with and were together from the offset. Checked his relaxation by circling around the field using transitions and changes of direction (COD) all the time, this helps me see if he’s still with me and checking in to my requests or ignoring them because he’s switched off or focused on something else. Popped him over a few jumps to check willingness is there and then some fig 8’s around some thistles which checks flexibility on both sides. All went well. To check true impulsion I asked him to do halt to trot and halt to canter transitions going onto some circles and he did them really well SO I could see he was listening, relaxed, willing, flexible from front to back and on left and right sides……a good time to praise well, treat for effort and saddle up.




The riding was very good, our impulsion was much better and our connection through breathing and focus was much better on my part too. What I compromised on was not riding away from our ‘base’ too far, so we did lots of transitions, turns and fig 8’s in a smaller area than normal but that was a good compromise as it felt the right thing to do as Solly has not worn his barefoot ‘boots’ for years and it only takes one thing to be different sometimes with him.


So…all going well so far with our CZT. I will do a couple more days in this ‘new’ area of the field, maybe cover the whole base area too and then it’ll be time to incorporate the field gate and outside of the gate into the next field on our next 7 day session.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Get your Butterflies in Formation

ButterfliesDo you get butterflies in your stomach when working or riding your horse? Do they make you emotional? Do they upset your horse? Do you feel you can’t control their fluttering? If so then maybe these technique can help ‘get your butterflies in formation’ so that you can use that energy and focus positively instead of them distracting you and making you feel overwhelmed.

What I try to do is visualise the ‘feeling’ of ‘butterflies’ in my stomach. To me they are  seen as real butterflies with glorious colours all fluttering. When there are many of them due to high anxiety, energy or excitement then I try to make them useful to me and to have ‘control’ over them. To control them I ‘synchronise them and put them into ‘formation’.





I bring all of them down to just 6 butterflies visualised under my ribs towards my belly button in a 2 across, 3 down formation. Synchronising them means they start to all flutter with the same wing flaps and rhythm, this helps me control my energy and getting them into formation helps me create a focus of where to take that energy…this is then picked up by the horse and we start to become more harmonious because I am being more focused.






To help bring the energy down in me, or my horse, I try to visualise those 6 butterflies flapping less and less and when it feels right I go from ‘seeing’ 6 butterflies to just 4.






As my energy, breathing and butterflies become more controlled I visualise just 2 butterflies becoming calmer and more synchronised.






Finally when everything is calm I see just one butterfly, representing a peaceful state. When that one is completely still it is in what I call ‘neutral’ and represents where the horse and I are usually connected standing still.

The single butterfly can flap low or high and it represents controlled connection and can build up to 2, 4 or 6 butterflies again in a controlled manner to help find the inner energy for upward and downward transitions. With this visual and with breathing techniques our horses can find us more harmonious to be with .


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Comfort Zone Training – parts 2 & 3

The last couple of weeks CZT has been positive and progressive even though the sessions haven’t always been the same amount of time. Our connection has been getting better, Solly’s impulsion has been getting better, communication and willingness have been  going really well and we’ve managed to move from one small area in and around a round pen to over half the field all by doing the same techniques with the same feeling and with the same requests of timing, energy and a balance between fast/slow, left/right, energy/stops and my ideas/Sol’s ideas. Slowly but surely we’ve become  more harmonious together and from working regularly, albeit not for long, Solly’s impulsion is improving due to him getting mentally, emotionally and physically fitter and ready to move. Sessions 2 and 3 were roughly the same but with session 3 we had a bit more time and extended the area we were working in a bit more….keeping it positive and progressive.

Here is our second  ground session work video….

And our second riding session…..

What I also realised is that it depends on your horse as to how much time you put in. If quite a worried horse lots of small good sessions work well, do a few sessions per week and allow a couple of days off to think about things. Slightly less worried horses can have fewer but maybe longer sessions with a few days to think about things. The ‘thinking’ days are a great way for your horse to think things over and often they come back to a new session with more understanding, confidence and curiosity. Those ‘thinking’ days also help you to figure out where to go next with your CZT, to retreat a bit, to progress a bit to go over what you’ve done or to go over what you’ve done quickly and progress a bit…the last one is where I try to be each time 😉

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Comfort Zone Training – part 1

In this blog category I am going to go through the steps of how I approach, retreat and re-approach with a sceptical horse into an unfamiliar environment. I call this ‘going out of our Comfort Zone’ and by doing that carefully we can retreat back into our normal safe haven and re-approach the scary place as often as we need to until it then becomes a part of our now bigger comfort zone.

I hope to show how I help my horse find relaxation and thereby confidence when we go to a place he, or I, am worried about. Everything will be done through ground work first, then a combo of ground and ridden work and hopefully more and more ridden work to show the progression of opening up our comfort zone.

Today was our first day and we worked on getting back our ‘ground work connection’ – which we had lost a bit because of me being away and not training for a while – through moving feet, mentally and physically being in the moment and trying to become harmonious in our movements together. Here is the video of the ground work.

What did I learn from this session?

Well, our connection was not bad at all really. he was pretty willing but his impulsion was low and he tried to avoid doing some things by putting in his own ‘fun bow’ move which he often uses to try to distract me from asking him to move more. Funnily enough the riding session that I didn’t manage to film due to the camera battery running low, was similar!! funny that!


What will I try in the next session?

From this first session I will now use consistency to do the same training techniques in the same area 3-7 times in a row. Each time, if all goes well, I will progress in some way, either by extending the CZ area a bit or upping the energy levels or working for a longer time….whatever it is will depend on how the horse OR I am feeling can be extended at that time. If things are a bit sticky or unconfident then I will do what I did the day before and always end on a good note. I take each day as a new opportunity to progress and prepare myself for that but I am not going to progress out of our CZ if things aren’t going well. On that note, if I feel unconfident with the riding side I may press through with gaining more CZ progress with ground work to at least not stagnate.

* Next session coming soon *

For more info on Comfort Zones go to the TRAINING TIP – ‘Stepping out of your Comfort Zone to Progress’
For more on horse thresholds go to the TRAINING TIP – ‘Horse Thresholds’

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy