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


Comfort Zone Training – Continuing training

Since doing CZT last year from the horses regular field we have moved the herd to their Winter grazing by our house. They are used to the change and often get snowed in at this point BUT recently the weather has been mild so there is the wonderful opportunity to walk the horses out here, with the hope to ride too soon. Last year there were 4 in our herd, this is the first year with just 3 horses SO walking one out at a time is a good way to start as the 2 boys are a little herd bound.


First solo walk out….


Both boys were a little sceptical at first, Heads were up, stopping to look and unfocused on me. I regained their focus with regular grazing spots of their favourite grasses and waiting for them to ‘re-connect’ to me.



When Solly was out Stormy whinneyed and Solly whinneyed when Stormy was out. Tara was introvered and kept her own company.


Next day, 2nd walk out…




Today was SO much better for the boys. Lower heads showing signs of relaxation, less stopping showing signs of confidence in environment and more games (transitions, touch it) showing signs of a better connection to me. This was great too as we had a few distractions such as a herd of deer running twice across the track and sheep in the field near where we turn around.



Image00034There was also less whinneying from the boy left in the paddock each time which was good, much more  confidence all around.

A couple of oatcakes as treats for being such good boys on their walks today.





Day 3…


 Today went really well.

Just half an hour to walk both horses out.

Less whinneying from boy at home 😉





Solly: relaxed, head down, only stopped at point where we turn to come home and we even had some nice walk/trot transitions on the way back.






Stormy:  he too was relaxed, walked forward nicely, only one stop on the way down and then a grazing stop before heading for home. Lovely trot transitions on way home too. Fab.







Day 4 – Each day that passes our walking out gets better, easier, calmer and more fun 😉



Solly yawns and yawns when he see’s Stormy coming home. There are a lot of theories why horses yawn, for me in this instance I feel it’s Solly coming off adrenaline after being stressed due to Stormy being away.






Day 5…




Solly:  Walked to turning point easily and calmly. At turning point I let him graze for a reward and then we played sidle up to the ‘hillock’ as if I were going to get on. We also played with ‘ground tying’. Went well and we had fun.

I mounted him at the large stone mounting block near home when I knew ‘we’ were totally relaxed and had a short ride home which felt great.



Stormy: Down to turning point on track easy peasy. Allowed some grazing and then mounted at the ‘hillock’ and rode home. FAB 😉


Sessions now will continue until I decide to change route and when I do that I will return to walking the boys out and building to where we can ride it. CZT is a continuous mission of teaching each horse to relax and be rideable.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Comfort Zone Training – Strategies & Techniques


  1. Have a PLAN/GOAL to work to, whether it’s walking out, hacking out, agility, competing or starting a young horse.
  2. Make sure you break down your plan into small, bitesized, do-able pieces. Do each piece in order, making sure each piece is made into a relaxed, happy habit before doing more (1-7 times).
  3. Progress slowly but positively, don’t over stretch you or your horse, keep things DO-ABLE.
  4. If your goal is to ride in new places walk in-hand first, build on this until you can ride a bit of it, then more and more. Walking in-hand first helps confidence of the place, your own emotions, your horses issues/thresholds and knowing that it’s safe to ride.
  5. Make sure you know where you comfort zone is ‘now’. To stretch your CZ you need to come out of it and get into the Learning Zone, but return often to your CZ to help keep confidence. Don’t go out of the ‘LZ’ or you’ll end up in the Wildnerness Zone where can get lost or so worried it’s hard to find your way back to your CZ!



  1. Breathe or Sing (to make sure you don’t hold your breathe and cause a brace in your own body).
  2. Visualisation (think through where you are going, see yourself doing your goal).
  3. Walk the route you are wanting to go by yourself first…make sure you know all the steps so that you feel confident before going there with your horse.
  4. Approach/Retreat patterns to use for confidence are circling and figure 8’s and transitions (go towards your goal/back off/repeat until it all feels better to be able to approach/retreat further)
  5. Be very consistent with your plan of action.
  6. If you are riding and think you need to get off then GET OFF….breathe, get confident again and continue. You can always get on again later OR just have a nice walk together and commit to your connection in-hand.
  7. Make sure you can connect and move all 4 feet in all 4 directions (back/forward/left/right).
  8. Find X (the place where you have a comfortable stop/halt). Take this X mentally with you wherever you go and make sure you use it to allow you and your horse time to breathe, relax and stay connected. It can be a gate, mounting block, cone or anywhere you go when you can take X with you once you start knowing you can hold that feeling of safety inside.



  1. Continue stretching your CZ and keep giving yourself goals,
  2. Be happy where you are now and take the pressure off yourself…..just enjoy your horse no matter what you do, each day is a super goal in itself 😉


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy