Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Virginia's Joke

I am riding with my friend Virginia to KC for our CTR convention. We left at 6 this morning! So we have talked about everything!!! She talks more than me, imagine that! LOL

Virginia shared a joke that she has heard before. In her own words, the story goes… “Some city slickers, from up north, a husband and wife, went down to Texas on vacation. They decided to go on a trail ride. The wrangler asked them if they want to ride English or Western. The couple didn’t understand what the difference was. The wrangler explained the difference. The English saddle doesn’t have a horn but the western saddle does. So the wife decided that she would ride English. She said that the traffic shouldn’t be bad enough that she would need a horn.”

Laugh, laugh, laugh!!! But I do think there are city people out there that would say this! I really do. Someday I will post all the one liners that I have heard over the years! Classic!

Enjoy the story! I will smile all day today as I think about it!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Valentine's Day is over, but the love lingers...

Valentine’s Day is over, but the memory lingers. This day is a day for remembering why we love the people that we love.

Valentine’s Day is a day of flowers, chocolate, cards, and kisses. But love doesn’t have to be shown in the form of gifts. This is a day to tell your loved ones that you love them. It could be a kiss hello or goodbye. It could be a special look. It could be just saying the right thing at the right time.

Love could be spending time with your loved one. And wanting to! Love could be giving of yourself, because you love the other person that much. Love could be doing something special for the other person. Love could be doing what the other person wants to do. Doing something that you wouldn’t necessarily would want to do. But you would do this because that is what the other person would love.

I wonder who we love more, people or pets? Pets love us back unconditionally. Pets want us to be happy all the time. Pets do what makes us happy, all the time. Well, most of the time!

Are horses pets? I don’t think they make us happy all the time! But when they do, that happy time is a special moment. Sometimes we have that special bond with that special horse. A bond that forms a special friendship. A bond that has that horse following us around like a puppy dog!

Do we tell our horses that we love them? What do we do that is special to our special horse? I think when we step back from riding and training, and just spend time with our horse, the horse knows that we love him or her. Love could be grooming, or feeding, or giving a special treat. Love could be going into the field to hug on our horse. To give our special friend a special hug.

How can we tell that our horses love us? Does our horse whinny when they see us? I love it when my horse whinnies to me softly, like a mare talking to her foal. Does our horse come up to us and lay their head low, to be petted in that special spot between the eyes? Does our horse stand still in the pasture, letting us rub them all over? I love it when the horses crowd around me, wanting me to pick them to rub on.

Sometimes we just need to spend time together. Doing nothing. That not only applies to our human loved ones, but to our four legged friends. A warm muzzle. A long neck to caress. A large belly to hug. A friend who will hang their head and accept us for who we are.

That is what love is all about. A horse to love. To love unconditionally. To want to spend time with me. To follow me around. To say spend time with me.

My next ride will be to hang out with my horse friend and just mosey around on the ride, enjoying each other‘s company! I just want to hang out for awhile! I want to make this a special ride for my friend, because I think that is what he would want! Come along on the ride with me!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Beginning Dressage Book, Part 2

I enjoyed the book. “The Beginning Dressage Book” by K. Denby-Wrightson and J. Fry, and reading about the basics of dressage . I thought this book was very precise, yet easy to understand. The beginning rider, as well as the experienced horse person, will learn something from this book. Beginning Dressage, part 2, teaches correct, balanced riding and dressage exercises.

Part 2 begins, at Chapter 11, to teach correct posting and the correct movement of the horse at the trot. The rising trot involves your seat, hips and thighs. The movement of the horse pushes you up and out of your seat. You allow your hips to move towards your hands. Your thighs roll forward as you raise your seat. Your legs and hands stay steady. Your legs remain at the girth and your elbows should be in line with the horse’s mouth. Your shoulders remain back, not leaning forward, as you should have a straight line from the back of your ear through to your shoulders, hips and heel. And, obviously, weight always remains in your heels.

Through my own experience, if you can’t keep your heels down, shorten your irons 2 notches. Remember that you are doubling over the iron leather as you are shortening the leathers, so 1 notch will actually only shorten the irons a ½ notch. You may need to shorten the leathers 2-4 notches. Also remember to keep your thighs relaxed! Instead of holding tight with your thighs, allow your thighs to move forward up and out of the saddle as you are posting. I always tell my lesson people that if you are tight, you will bounce like a ball full of air, and you will bounce hard! If you are relaxed, you will be like a ball ½ full of air and one that will hardly bounce!

I highlighted some interesting notes as I read the book. Some of these I knew and some of these ideas, as I read, I thought, “Huh, that’s right, I never realized that before“. Some of these thoughts are very basic and easy to understand, and some of these thoughts need to be analyzed, and practiced on the horse, to fully understand. I think I will work on 1 or 2 new ideas at a time.

The reason to post on the correct diagonal is so the horse can maintain greater impulsion. Your weight needs to be out of the saddle as the horse moves his inside hind leg. The hind leg will be able to get up and under the horse’s body more, therefore giving the horse more extension at the trot. A great trot is when the inside hind leg reaches up and is in the front hoof print, or even beyond the front hoof print.

Don’t use your feet to post. Don’t grip with your knees. Learn to post out of your seat. A great exercise is to post without irons. Cross the irons in front of you so they don’t sway and bump against your legs as you are trotting.

Another great exercise is to balance in 2-point position. Trot in 2 point position for 10 strides, then post for 10 strides. Do this same exercise while trotting over poles. Trotting poles also teaches a horse to pick up his feet, and trot with cadence.

You can also try posting, with and without irons, with your hands on your hips. Sit the trot and raise your hands over you head. Feel the trot THROUGH YOUR STOMACH and the small of your back. Push your stomach out as your raise and in as you sit. Feel the motion of the trot in your stomach and in your lower back.

Another exercise is to hold the reins in one hand and put your other hand on the pommel. Grip the pommel, straighten that arm, and push your shoulders away from your hand. Keep your seat in the saddle and stretch your body up and back. Feel the trot movement in your stomach and lower back. Move with the horse!

You ask for impulsion with your inside leg!!! Hold with the outside leg behind the girth and bump with your inside leg, at the girth, to ask for the canter. I will need to practice this as I always ask for the canter with my outside leg. I have always pushed with my outside leg to get more extension at the canter. Start by sitting deep in the saddle and use your seat bones to push the horse forward. Do this by doing the pommel exercise talked about in the preceding paragraph. Remember, during the canter, use your stomach and back muscles to follow the 1-2-3 rhythm of the canter.

In my past experience, to canter, I would push the hip to the inside. The horse engages the outside hind leg to push off with and into the correct lead. With the dressage method, your inside leg asks for impulsion, allowing room for the hind legs to step further underneath the horse. You sit more on your inside seat bones. To support the added weight to the inside hind leg, the horse must bring the inside hind leg further under the body.

Dressage allows the horse to use his own balance. The horse needs to be rounded and moving with rhythm. At the canter, the horse needs to bend in the direction that he is moving. The horse needs to be moving forward and straight, but before going forward, the horse needs to be balanced. When you engage the horse’s hindquarters, he lightens his forehand.

I have already been training with many of the dressage riding exercises. Leg yields move the horse diagonally across the arena while keeping the horse straight and parallel to the long wall, both at the walk and the trot. Serpentine the arena while changing the posting diagonal. Figure 8’s allow the horse to change the bend in the body. Ride circles, then spiral the circles in and out.
Teach the horse to travel straight. The hindquarters should travel directly in the same line as the forehand. The horse will be able to engage the hindquarters and use more impulsion. As the horse lengthens his stride, he lengthens his frame. Collection, on the other hand, teaches the horse to move forward with an engaged hindquarter and a lightened forehand, while maintaining cadence. Half halts teach the horse to hesitate during the movement of the gait, and teach the horse to use the hind legs.

The horse is working hard, both mentally and physically. Until the horse is in shape, keep work times to 15-20 minutes. Extend the work time as the horse builds endurance. The horse needs to stay confident while maintaining the form.

I want you to learn to ride through feel and to “get it”. When you have “it”, you will know what the “it” is. I promise! You will ride more comfortably and confidently. Come along on the ride of learning. Remember, move FORWARD and BALANCED, WITH INCREASED ENERGY AND COLLECTION!!! Read this book! I highly recommend “The Beginning Dressage Book”!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Groundhog Day February 2nd

The day is clear with the sun shining! It had been forecasted to being a snowy day, which would have been better for our long term winter! Now, that means sun, and the Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog will see his shadow. If Phil sees his shadow, he will be scared, and go back into his hole for 6 more weeks. That means 6 more weeks of winter.

Growing up in western Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney was in my back yard. Punxy was one of our town’s high school rivals. They had this groundhog that they got out of a cage in the middle of winter. Phil would predict if we were going to have more winter. I didn’t think much about that town. It was just another western Pennsylvania small town.
We sure didn’t make pets out of groundhogs. They were rodents and made terrible holes in the hay fields, and everywhere else. My dad used to shoot groundhogs! Some people used to eat them but we didn't! I always thought that Groundhog Day was just something in “our neck of the woods”. Punxy is just down the road, part of an hour away. I never dreamt that they would talk about this rodent miles away. Then I moved to the eastern part of the state and over the border to New Jersey. And you know what? They knew about this groundhog there! I was amazed. Then we moved to the outskirts of Pittsburgh, and they knew about that groundhog there. But I figured that Punxy was only a little more than an hour away and it must be a western PA thing. But I was astonished when I moved to Michigan and they knew there!

AND…I finally got it when I moved to Nebraska! Everyone knows!!! My husband still laughs at me to this day, 28 years later, every time February 2nd comes around. I never realized that Groundhog Day was a national thing! Over a rodent. Go figure!!! Remember, these were the days before the movie!
So now we have 6 more weeks of winter. Just because of some Groundhog! Who needs that? I still don’t get what the big deal is all about on February 2nd!

Now there is an OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Go figure, again!

But I did find out that Punxsutawney Phil has a girlfriend groundhog, and I know her name! Do you? And I know how many times Phil has seen his shadow and how many times he hasn’t!

HINT: Phil has seen his shadow more than not seeing it! Looks like we almost always have more winter after Feb 2!

Oh…where is the spring sunshine and warmth?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Beginning Dressage, Part 2

Keep watching for Part 2. Hopefully it will show up in the next few day! It has taken an extra week to finish the book. But I have finished the book, have highlighted the thoughts that I really like, and I just need to write about my thoughts. Before I could do that, though, since I had gone to the Denver market, I have had paperwork to get organized. My husband and I came back to PA to visit parents for a few days. I’m sure I’ll have a few hours on the plane ride home to write! Thanks for waiting!


Messick Quarter Horses

Check out my website at:

Lessons, Training and Horse Sales
E-mail me at

Messick Tack & Feed

Messick Tack & Feed
website will be up soon! Click on logo to see current specials!