June 2016

Training Exercises That Develop Strength, Balance and Self-Carriage

June 13, 2016

Mississippi State University teaches exercises to develop a horse’s balance at the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camp in Slovenia.

By Kelsey Stangebye, 2016 AQHA international intern 


From left: AQHA international intern Kelsey Stangebye, Hannah Miller, Samantha Miller and Dr. Clay Cavinder

We had an #AQHAProud weekend for the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camp at Castle Prestranek in Slovenia. The horsemanship camp was conducted by Mississippi State University; led by Dr. Clay Cavinder, an associate professor and Extension Horse Specialist for MSU, and assisted by MSU undergraduates Hannah Miller and Samantha Miller. We had an excellent horsemanship camp over a three-day period, in which, the instructors provided exercises that focused on gait transitions and training over ground poles. Additionally, the MSU instructors and I were so impressed with the members of the Slovenian Quarter Horse Association’s camaraderie and admiration for their Quarter Horses. We would like to thank the Slovenian Quarter Horse Association for their generous hospitality that they extended to us, and also for their awards presentation. (More to come on that below!)


Riders prepare for the horsemanship camp awards ceremony. (Credit: Sara Velenik)

Exercises to Develop a Balanced Horse

During the horsemanship camp in Slovenian, the MSU instructors explained how using ground poles and gait transitions can develop the horse’s balance, strength and self-carriage. Additionally, using ground poles and working on transitions is particularly helpful with training a horse that is heavy on the front end and/or hollow through their topline. The instructors explained that these exercises will also be beneficial for a rider to develop their rhythm and timing as they practice transitions and guiding their horse over ground poles. Ultimately, developing the horse’s balance will allow the rider to finesse their control over the horse’s body and prepare the horse for more advanced maneuvers; such as the lead change. Read the rest of this entry »

Riding Lessons With Richard Shrake

June 13, 2016

AQHA Professional Horseman Richard Shrake helps you develop a better relationship with your horse in this four-part series.

We all want to become better riders, improving our rhythm, form, confidence and so much more. AQHA Professional Horseman Richard Shrake gets you started in the right direction toward a better relationship with your horse in AQHA’s FREE Riding Lessons with Richard Shrake report.

In this amazing free report, Richard explains how riding a horse uses skills you already know, citing examples from golf, tennis and more.

Richard explains:

  • The importance of rhythm
  • Why timing is crucial to good riding
  • How precision and form work together to create a well-rounded rider
  • Confidence-building techniques
  • Breathing exercises
  • Plus all kinds of great drills and courses to help solidify your newfound techniques

Richard offers lots of rich, heartwarming examples within the Riding Lessons with Richard Shrake report.

“Megan has a brand-new horse, and she’s having trouble bonding with him. She’s starting to lose interest in riding,” Richard says. “Megan needs to realize that this horse needs to be like a best friend. She can’t blame him for his reactionary, sensitive attitude. She needs to find a way to make him a good friend – someone she’d like to be around all the time.”

Richard suggests a steady routine to help Megan with her situation:

  • Catch your horse’s eye
  • Release endorphins – the “feel good” hormones in every animal; in a horse, you can rub his ears, poll and cheeks
  • Halter your horse
  • Get your horse in “herd mode”

Learn more about these techniques now by downloading your FREE copy of Riding Lessons with Richard Shrake.

Download the Riding Lessons with Richard Shrake report for FREE!

Just enter your name and email address below.

Do you know what it means when your horse lifts his head, hollows his back and gets stiff? Richard explains, “This means your horse is protectign himself, the same as  you would if someone walked up and hit you with a hard punch. Your horse is saying, ‘Whoops, you just smacked me before you told me what you were going to do.’ ” In this report, Richard shows you how to watch for signs from  your horse that you’re moving too fast for him. He shows you how to slow down your hands and rhythm to make your horse more comfortable and less sensitive.

In his section explaining the importance of rhythm, Richard says, “If you stand relaxed with one arm in the air and stomp your foot, you can feel the energy flow all the way from your foot to your fingertips. But if you stand with your jaw clenched and stomp your foot, the vibration ends at your tight jaw. If you have that same rigidity in your body, you’ll interrupt the rhythm from your horse’s gaits.”

Download Riding Lessons with Richard Shrake to learn the next step in improving your rhythm.

Bad Manners

May 9, 2016

Help for a horse owner whose gelding has less than desirable ground manners.


I have a 9-year-old gelding that I have had for three years. We show walk-trot English and western. My husband and I are still novice to the show world. My gelding has been a 4-H show horse since the previous owner purchased him as a long 2-year-old, so I know he knows his job.

I am concerned because he has just recently tried biting. He pins his ears back when putting his saddle on (the vet sees no problem with his back), and he rubs his face on me when we are done riding. How do I solve these ground manner issues? He also consistently picks up the wrong canter lead when riding clockwise. I have tried leg, body weight, crop and side pass then lead off. I know that he knows what I am asking; When Read the rest of this entry »

Standing Still

April 18, 2016

Horseback Riding Tip: A horse that stands quietly can be invaluable in and out of the arena.

Learn what to do to take care of a leg wound. Journal photo

Teaching  your horse to stand quietly and respectfully is sure to instill confidence in you both. Journal photo

From AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship

In everyday tasks involving your horse, it is useful to have a horse that has learned to stand still, calmly and patiently, without the company of other horses.

A horse that halts quietly at your side as soon as you stop walking, and keeps the same composure when he sees the vet or the blacksmith or is left tied up is an altogether more pleasant animal.

Standing quietly also helps the horse become calmer and braver, which are useful qualities when you ride him. Read the rest of this entry »

Going Forward

April 12, 2016

Tips to help a young horse find his “forward” gears.


I would appreciate a tip on how to keep a horse moving forward. I have a young horse that wants to stop and freeze up. I don’t use spurs and am not sure if a crop is the way to go.

— Patti Jo Runyan


We sought the wisdom of Patrick Hooks of Texhoma, Oklahoma, a clinician, horse trainer and longtime colt starter:

Don’t feel alone. I’ve been in the same boat many times. I will offer some solutions, rather than quick fixes. Keep in mind that my suggestions will take a lot of hard work and patience on your part.

Any time I help with a problem, whether I’m present or not, I evaluate a horse according to four separate categories: physical, Read the rest of this entry »

Follow His Instincts

April 12, 2016

When training American Quarter Horses, it’s all about the attitude.

Martin Black

Any successes we have with horses come from communicating in their way. – Martin Black. Journal photo

By Martin Black

It is interesting to watch big cats and other predators stroll through herds of prey on the Serengeti Plains in Africa. A zebra may take notice of a lion, but if the lion doesn’t show any aggression, the zebra may continue grazing.

As long as the lion is relaxed and non-threatening, the zebra stays relaxed. But when the zebra gets any hint of suspicious action from the lion, the zebra becomes alert. If there is a sense of danger, the zebras leave for safer ground. If the zebras can’t get away, they turn to fighting. Read the rest of this entry »

Groundwork: Less Is More

February 23, 2016

We can take a good horse-training technique and run it into the ground.

horse training

Curt Pate works with a young horse on the ground. Journal photo

From America’s Horse

By AQHA Professional Horseman Curt Pate

Keep groundwork to a minimum.

By this, I mean, do what it takes to be safe, but don’t overdo it. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Training: No-Go Mounting

January 26, 2016

Tips to keep your horse standing still while you get on.

mounting pic

Become a better horseman. Photo from AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship.

From AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship

Can you barely swing your leg over your horse’s side before he starts to walk off?

If you’re envious of those horses who stand still as a statue until their riders are ready, these instructions are for you.


  • To get onto your horse without him moving or becoming disturbed.
  • To have your horse “await further instructions” once you have mounted

Read the rest of this entry »

Bucking at the Canter

December 1, 2015

Heed this advice offered to a reader whose horse bucks at the canter.


I have an 11-year-old palomino Quarter Horse whom I have owned for a year and a half. While we are cantering, my horse bucks. I have had his saddle fit checked, and I have had a chiropractor work on him, yet he still bucks several times in the canter. I’m not sure how to break what seems to be becoming a bad habit.

When I first bought him, he was not bucking, but he seems to have developed this bad habit over the past six months. While I have a pretty good seat, I am concerned that I will get hurt if this behavior continues or, worse yet, someone else may get hurt.

I would appreciate any suggestions you can make. I don’t think he’s in pain as I have had the vet check him. Help!

— Marla Schneider


Any time I help with a problem, whether I’m present or not, I think about four separate categories: mental, physical, emotional and mechanical. Each category is self explanatory, except for mechanical. That’s what I think of as the rider’s duty of horsemanship, including being aware of the horse’s foot fall and movements. In this case, here’s how I went through the checklist: Read the rest of this entry »

Cutting Fundamentals

December 1, 2015

Learn how one horse trainer teaches young horses to react and move with cattle.

Cutting Fundamentals

The rider’s body position is extremely important when it comes to critical timing in cutting. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

The ideal picture of a cutting horse is one of polished concentration and split-second response to the action of the cow.

The ability to excel in cutting depends on breeding, training and an individual’s desire. Read the rest of this entry »

Backing Your Horse Like a Champ

November 18, 2015

Ask your horse to back up lightly and willingly with the halter for a positive horse-showing experience.

Margaret Bellville and GPF Legal Version perform the backing portion of their showmanship pattern at the Bayer Select AQHA World Championship Show.

Margaret Bellville and GPF Legal Version perform the backing portion of their showmanship pattern at the 2008 Select World Championship Show.

Backing your horse is a common maneuver in showmanship classes, so it’s important to do it correctly and seemingly effortlessly.

AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship books offer this advice. Read the rest of this entry »

Feel the Rhythm

October 27, 2015

Maintain consistent cadence for a horse-training advantage.

Illustration by Jean Abernathey

Follow these tips to improve your feel and your horse’s rhythm. Illustration by Jean Abernathy

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association master instructor Carla Wennberg in The American Quarter Horse Journal

If you’re maintaining rhythm, you’re maintaining a consistent cadence and pace in a gait. The cadence of a gait is the number of beats – like the three-beat lope or the two-beat jog. The pace is how fast you hear the beats.

The importance of rhythm and movement plays into a lot of different classes, not just horses that are judged on the rail – it’s important in reining, horsemanship, trail, everything. Read the rest of this entry »