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: ‘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






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




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 Video: ‘Cross Training’

What is cross training I hear you say? Well it’s really just working your horse for just one discipline (ie. jumping, dressage, cross country etc) and can help to keep your horse happy mentally, emotionally and physically. SO if you are into jumping then by working on some dressage moves you can find you create better flexibility, moves and transitions for your jumping, by having fun out hacking you can find more fun and impulsion for dressage and maybe doing some agility or Trec you can find you have better focus for something like vaulting. Whatever you do you will find the more that you cross train the happier, centred and more rounded your horse can be.

Here is just something I’ve been working on with my boy Solly…..canter leads, from using them in dressage patterns we can transfer that knowledge to being able to do a good jumping course in canter.

Video 1: SLC’s through a serpentine pattern…

First I was just asking for canter, anywhere, then making it more specific for circles and in dressage tests. Here we are working on Simple Lead Changes (SLC) where we canter an arc then come down to walk or trot, get straight and then re-ask for canter on the other lead. I am trying to see how little walk or trot we can do before getting a new lead.

To be able to get the SLC’s we need Relaxation in canter, flexiblity and straightness on straight lines and curves, willingness and light cues and for Solly it’s been hard work as he didn’t understand canter cues when I got him so have been working on treat training, voice cues and lots of ground work.

More to come soon…..
(Video 2 = counting strides / Video 3 = using poles for accuracy / Video 4 = jumping)

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Training Tip Video: ‘Vaccination Familiarisation’

As with everything I do with horses the main criteria  I’m looking for is RELAXATION with this technique. If we can set the horse up with relaxation before the vet comes then their neck muscles can be relaxed and the needle will go in without pain. Relaxed for this means low head and even just a wee bit towards you in an arc. Practising this regularly so that the horse will learn to it on command will help the horse, and vet, have an easier time with it all.

  • 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 – 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

Training Tips: ‘Consistency, Consistency, Consistency’

Some horses and their owners have no trouble going out and about, trekking here, there and everywhere. I was one of them with my solid, calm gypsy cob Tara. She and I have gone over hill, glen and rivers for hours on end in our time riding out and we have a lot of photographs to remember them all by too. But since getting Solly, my TB x Highland, things have been slightly different. He has a sceptical nature, is a live wire sometimes and takes a long time to trust SO going out has been eventful and now very rare. But that is hopefully going to change 😉

The reason I decided not to hack him out any more was that I don’t want to have any accidents with him or to loose his trust in me. Our relationship in the field with training (liberty, online, lateral ridden and jumping) has become very good, when we started in the field there were places that he wouldn’t ride even though it’s where he eats every day so I knew he would be worse in new environments. His ground work is going well but he changes character when I ride him, from a bored, lazy horse who needs motivation to a sceptical horse that can spook at something that’s not there. For this sort of horse consistency is the best teacher.

When one of my students has trouble with a technique, a task, riding inconsistencies or unconfidence in new places I always say ‘start in a small area, build to bigger area’s and use consistency for confidence and don’t forget to progress’. Working with these methods helps gain the horse/human connection from their normal comfort zones to larger area’s which then become their new comfort zones. SO…this is what I have done with myself and Solly too…..we’ve gone back to basic’s and finding RELAXATION through CONSISTENCY so that we can stretch our COMFORT ZONES to larger area’s. (See previous  blog post –  Training Tip: ‘Stepping out of your Comfort Zone to Progress’)

This week we’ve started the CZT process (Comfort Zone Training) as I was away for quite a while teaching and with family to the point that our ‘connection’ was weak. I will endeavour to write about the experience of approaching and retreating with comfort zones (his AND mine) here on this blog and hope we can help and inspire others having similar experiences. I will put it all in the new category ‘Comfort Zone Training’ and make it a series of posts with video if I can.

It will hopefully show how consistency basic’s can be used to sweeten a new area for your horse by only changing the environment not the techniques and this then helps bring  relaxation quickly so that the new environment can be added to your original comfort zone which equals progress. I will also talk about you and horse ‘THRESHOLDS’…these are where fear/flight/fight/shutdown can occur so we need to take care of those to help everything go smoothly.

For me it’s about keeping the connection and not pushing a horse through his thresholds  to where his instinct kicks in and the communication/connection is lost. Once we’ve gone there we’ve lost relaxation and we’ve not listened to our horses fears and thereby lost his trust in us. I want a horse to have complete trust in me so that I have complete trust in him and with some horses you just need to take the time to allow this to grow together :)

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy