Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Parelli Level 3 Horse Having Fun

The owners learn "horsemanship" by going through the levels of PNH (Parelli Natural Horsemanship) and build good relationships and two-way communication with their horses.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Level 3 Parelli At Liberty Audition

This horse is an off-the-track Thoroughbred, doing a fine job with the Level 3 Parelli Natural Horsemanship At Liberty audition.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Understanding Leg Aids

By Faith Meredith
Director of Riding, Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre

Riders communicate with their horses using horse-logical pressures we call aids. The 'natural' aids include the hands (reins), seat (weight), and legs. Riders use a 'circle of aids' to create a corridor of pressures that asks a horse to perform a specific combination of gait, rhythm, pace, direction, and other nuances.

Even though riders do not use one natural aid in total isolation from the others, discussing leg aids separately can help riders understand their options for applying leg aids and how those options influence the horse. The rider's right leg pressure influences the horse's right hind leg while the rider's left leg pressure influences the horse's left hind leg. The basic leg influences are:

[]Leg on—driving
[]Leg on—keeping, or
[]Leg off.

Driving leg pressure asks the horse for movement, for energy. Keeping leg pressure asks the horse to hold or maintain a shape or direction or gait. When a leg is off the horse, there is no pressure from the leg on that side.

These basic influences are further refined when leg is applied:

[]Unilaterally—one leg driving, one leg keeping
[]Bilaterally—both legs driving, or
[]Variably—the leg pressure varies from stride to stride.

The ability to vary a pressure is one of the primary differences between an aid and a cue. Whether the leg is used as a driving aid or a keeping aid, the degree of its pressure can vary. When we teach beginning riders, we use little pictographs as tools to explain which combination of aids riders use for a given movement. The reality is that these visual recipes provide only limited information because they cannot illustrate variability.

Our green horses receive extensive groundwork until they develop a full understanding of corridors of pressure and how to respond to them. When we start them under saddle, the first ride occurs in a small arena that limits the horse's ability to move too far too fast. The rider leaves the reins alone and waits to see what the horse offers. Depending on the horse's personality, it may amble away from the mounting block, offer a trot, or even strike off on a canter.

As soon as the horse moves, the rider softly applies the correct leg and seat aids for whatever the horse offers. Gradually, the horse makes a connection between the feel of a specific corridor of pressures and a particular gait. And gradually, the trainer introduces rein aids for a full circle of aids.

As the horse's understanding of aids increases, variable leg pressures allow a sophisticated conversation between horse and rider. For example, a dressage rider can ask the horse for a working trot, medium trot, collected trot, or extended trot. In order to communicate which trot she wants, the rider has to do more than just drive with both legs. Did the rider use the appropriate degree of pressure? Did the rider use the right degree of driving or keeping from each leg? The horse's response is the rider's primary feedback.

The degree of pressure that the rider uses will depend on the horse's training level, personality, and physical sensitivity. The rider's end goal should be to communicate with the lightest aids possible, invisible to those watching.

The rider can vary both driving and keeping pressures depending on what she wants the horse to do at a specific moment. For example, if a horse starts to 'chase' around the arena, quickening his steps rather than lengthening them, the rider can keep the driving leg pressure on just a little longer to slow the horse's rhythm rather than driving in the rhythm the horse is moving.

Whenever a rider creates a corridor of aids, it is important to leave an opening for the horse to release the energy she creates with her driving leg aids. For example, in the leg yield left the rider increases the pressure of the left leg asking the horse to move away from that pressure.

The rider's right (outside) leg is back and keeping, suggesting an opening to the right to the horse. The horse picks up the left hind and moves it both over and forward instead of just forward. The outside rein (right rein) inhibits the forward motion slightly and redirects it forward and sideways, while also maintaining straightness in the horse's body.

Some riders are confused about whether they should apply leg pressure at the girth, behind the girth, or way behind the girth. Ideally, the rider would like her driving leg just behind the girth, but the conformation of some horses and the leg length of some riders make this difficult.

The most important thing is that the inside of the rider's lower leg should be able to make contact with the horse's side. The rider should think of stretching her leg down and around the horse's side. There should be no gripping or tension. The rider has to have her seat and upper body in the correct position in order to control the position of her lower leg.

The rider's basic position is more important than exactly where her leg falls on her horse. Ideally, a plumb line dropped from the rider's ear will pass through her hip and ankle. The critical thing is that she needs to maintain the correct position of her thighs and hips so that she can give leg aids with the inside of her calf, not the back of the calf.

The thigh should lie flat on the saddle. In order to use leg aids correctly the rider must not grip with the thigh muscles or the knee. Gripping with the thigh muscles or the knees locks the hip joint. The hip joint is the rider's shock absorber. If the rider locks her hip joints, she cannot follow the horse's motion and, therefore, cannot apply leg aids effectively.

The upper body or torso must remain stable in order for the lower leg to stay stable. If the rider has to move around to apply the leg aids that movement interrupts her balance and her aids will not be clear to the horse.

Leg aids are just one of the natural aids we use to communicate with our horses. The 'circles of aids' we create with them are much like the sentences we construct from individual words to communicate with friends. As the rider develops an independent seat and the horse gains an understanding of the many variations possible in aid pressures, they can work together to write poetry in motion.

© 2008 Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Twisted Truths, Horse Dressage

More and more, people are speaking out on the problems in modern dressage:

Gerd Heuschmann's book and DVD

and now Philippe Karl's book:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Petitions Regarding Abusive Horse Equipment, Riding, and Training

The following are two separate petitions calling for changes in the showing rules:

Philippe Karl is sending a letter to the German FN please read the letter and sign if you agree. It is the only way things will change for these top horses who are made to jump through hoops by their owners:

Two Finger Rule:

Join us and help petition the F.E.I. that all dressage competitions should only be shown with the horse wearing a cavesson with two finger width between the horse's face and the cavesson, both in the show ring and in the warm up ring. This rule has been a standard for generations of horsemen and accepted as being the best for the horse. This rule/standard was so accepted around the world by every teacher and rider - that it was never even written down. Now we see training practices that include crank nosebands and rollkur. Training practices that are physically, emotionally and mentally detrimental to the horse. A return to this simple rule, that will be easy to teach and enforce, can make a huge difference for horses not only for those in the show ring but for all of the horses, whose riders and teachers use those horses in competition as their standard of correct training. Please sign today and share this with all equestrians that you know, and together perhaps we can make a difference.

Please feel free to forward this link.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pre-Cues in Horse Training

Benefits of Pre-Cues

JoshLyons explains that pre-cues give two important benefits: 1) the horse becomes lighter and 2) the horse becomes less aggravated. Josh said that horses become aggravated when asked to perform the same movement repeatedly with a strong cue. This repetition, without change, causes the horse's aggravation.

Training with pre-cues allows you to add that element of change into the exercise. As the horse works to determine the sequence of pre-cues, he learns that he can respond with fewer direct cues. This focuses the horse's attention on the learning sequence and reduces his frustration level.

Using pre-cues will also make you a better rider. Because you become more conscious of your actions, you will become more consistent and more precise in using your body. These changes will improve your ability to communicate with your horse.

By Gordon Adair

Can a horse be trained to respond to soft cues, when a rider is currently using spurs and a heavy bit to cue his horse? Certainly. Horses can be taught anything if the owner is willing. To encourage your horse to become lighter and more responsive, allow your horse to have the choice of picking a softer cue pressure. The softer cue pressure you are offering to your horse is called a pre-cue. Once your horse chooses the precue over the normal cue pressure, the pre-cue becomes the normal cue pressure and another precue should be offered. This cycle will continue forever.

Horses will also send pre-cues to warn riders about what they are planning to do. A rider who is not aware of the pre-cues will often say, "Suddenly my horse just started bucking." Horses do not just start bucking--they send pre-cues that they are going to start bucking. A horse dropping his head can be a pre-cue to bucking. A horse moving his weight from the hindquarters to the forehand can be a pre-cue to him dropping his head to prepare to buck. When riders take notice of these pre-cues which horses offer, they can correct an action long before it becomes a problem.


To succeed in any training goal, rules must be set and followed. The main rule all horses must obey is that they must move away from pressure. The rule riders must obey is that when a horse moves away from pressure, pressure must be released. When these two rules are applied correctly, your horse will willingly begin to avoid pressure. The rule that horses should avoid pressure is the more advanced form of the rule that horses move away from pressure. Horses learn to avoid pressure by looking for a pre-cue to a rider's main cue. A pre-cue is generally a movement a rider makes while preparing for a cue. When a horse tried to avoid your cue by responding to a pre-cue, you should not correct him. Instead, reward him by stopping your cue pressure. One of a rider's many goals is to achieve lighter and more responsive cues, so horse and rider can move in harmony. Imagine cueing your horse by just turning and looking in the direction you want to go, as in, "Look ma, no reins or legs!" This soft cue can be encouraged by always beginning with a pre-cue before the cue you normally use. For example, when turning your horse to the right, begin by turning your body and increase the cue pressure until your horse obeys.

Soon, your horse will choose a precue somewhere along the increasing pressure. The point where your horse responds will become the new cue pressure for your procedure. This system will continue to the point where you will only need to look and move your body in the direction you want. When your horse is trying to avoid pressure, your cue movement will be undetectable to others. It will be undetectable because you and your horse are moving = simultaneously through the procedure.


When a horse is trying to avoid pressure, he is doing it because the pressure of the cue bothers him. So, the horse begins to look for a sign to avoid the pressure entirely. When correcting a horse for avoiding pressure, you are telling him to accept pressure, or to ignore pressure altogether. This breaks the most important rule of communication, that horses should move away or avoid pressure. A rider who breaks these rules is a poor leader. Horses lose respect and trust in riders when they contradict themselves. For communication to work, each rule and procedure must have a definition. This way when both horse and rider learn the rules and procedures, they will have guidelines to follow. By having guidelines, a rider does not have to explain every detail; the guidelines will fill in the blanks. In this case, the guideline is that horses must avoid pressure and work together with their riders.


Wouldn't it be great if your horse would respond to pre-cues? Why is this so hard to achieve when it is such a natural response for your horse? Again, poor communication is to blame. Many riders will punish their horses for trying to anticipate their movements. These riders may think their horse is being difficult, that he should not respond until the cue is given. What the riders are really doing is punishing their horses for looking for a pre-cue to avoid the pressure of the cue.

For example, if it normally takes five pounds of bit pressure to stop your horse, then one day your horse responds to a pre-cue at two pounds of pressure by stopping five feet short of your target, repeat the procedure with two pounds of bit pressure. The simples solution when your horse is responding to a pre-cue is, make the pre-cue the new cue. This cycle may continue to a level of response you could never have imagined.

Here are two examples to help you decide the difference between a horse avoiding cue pressure and a horse making a decision on his own: If you have already decided to turn or stop your horse, and he beats your cue, he is trying to avoid pressure by responding to pre-cues. On the other hand, when your horse decides to turn or stop when you had not planned on doing so, your horse is anticipating or making his own decisions. At any point your horse purposely or mistakenly responds to a pre-cue, reward him by releasing the cue pressure. Soon you will find your horse making a game out of trying to find a softer pre-cue. Your horse taking the challenge of looking for pre-cues in a playful manner is a good sign, because your horse should enjoy working with yuo and training should be fun. It is much easier teaching horses when they enjoy working as opposed to the "or else" method.


Riders may cause their own problems because they do not give pre-cues. An example is a rider who mounts his horse and quickly and sharply kicks his horse forward. The horse, trying to avoid the kick, begins moving forward before the rider is in the saddle. The rider sees this action as a bad habit instead of seeing the horse trying to avoid being hurt while doing as he is told. To avoid this, use a softer cue, and vary the length of time you stand still and when you apply your cue. Simply be aware what movements or signs may be pre-cueing your horse. Remember, horses are trained to obey humans, so be careful what you are saying. When you are learning to communicate to your horse, you may unknowingly miscommunicate.


Horses always offer pre-cues before an action. This is why I say, "Northing just happens; it has been growing unnoticed for a long time." A good rider can trace a horse's pre-cue path all the way back to a tense mouth or stiff ears. Tracing the pre-cues back is important, because a rider does not have to wait until the horse is bucking to correct him.

Horses can be corrected for preparing or just thinking about bucking. When a rider waits for the bucking, the correction will need to equal or exceed the violence of a buck. Correcting a horse for thinking about bucking may only amount to a simple hand movement cue, to relax. A simple hand movement is much safer than correcting during a buck.

Every horse will have a different pre-cue to their actions. There are many standard pre-cues horses will follow due to their physical build and instinctive responses. Still, there are too many pre-cues and too many actions to list in this article. The better you understand how a horse thinks and responds, the better you can identify pre-cues before the actions.

Naturally it is always better to avoid a problem from happening than correcting it later. An action from a horse can also turn into a pre-cue when it is not corrected. By not correcting or noticing a horse's action, the rider is saying it is o.k. to act in this manner. So, the horse continues with the same action at a higher level each time until the rider notices. In other words, until it becomes a "problem". For example, you may begin by having trouble catching your horse. Then you start losing control while leading him to the tack room. Both problems have lack of respect at the common cause. Here the pre-cues for lack of respect are at different levels. The lack of respect started in the stall and grew to being displayed while being led. Unless it is corrected, it is only a matter of time before the problem is displayed during riding.


Horses will talk to us if we pay attention and listen to what they are saying. At first, your knowledge of horse language may just be saying "yes" or "no". The more you learn about horses, the better you can communicate with your horse. Pre-cues are just one of many different ways to tell your horse what to do. By using pre-cues before all your cues, you will inform your horse what you are preparing to do. Most importantly, you will be offering your horse the choice between responding to normal cue pressure or to a softer cue. When you keep your horse's interests in mind, you will gain his respect and trust. Without respect and trust, you will never become your horse's leader or friend. By achieving soft, responsive cues and by reading your horse's pre-cues to his actions, you can head off and correct your horse's actions without anyone even noticing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Horse Quotes

That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong. ~~ William J. H. Boetcker

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. ~~ Martin Luther King Jr.

If we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves share in the guilt. "Black Beauty" ~~Anna Sewell

All that is necessary for ignorance to prevail is for educated people to say nothing. ~~ Judy Ryder