You are here: Home Blog "The last trainer who rode him fell and was badly hurt - just so you know."

"The last trainer who rode him fell and was badly hurt - just so you know."

WendyMarilyn3x3x300LRA great moment here at a one day clinic, towards the end of our riding session.

I fondly remember this dear lady in front telling me (as I put my helmet on to ride her horse...) "He threw the last trainer that rode him and she was hurt pretty badly". Of course she was just feeling a little anxious (that is not one of the best horse owning experiences to have had). Well, if I were afraid of the horse I was about to ride, I'd sort that out before getting on. And if an owner is afraid of me riding their horse, the same thing applies! Marilyn is a great sport, so I took my helmet off and said "If you think that's gonna happen again I'd best not ride! I don't like that plan too much!!" She laughed and her anxiety faded but bubbled up again "well it was awful, she broke her sternum". 

"MARILYN!" I exclaimed and burst out laughing. There was just something SO absurd about me putting a foot in the stirrup while also hearing these words in my ears!

My reality was that I saw a horse who liked Marilyn quite well and was "just trying to get along", as Bill Dorrance might say. That being said, things were a little squirrely between them and Marilyn knew it. She had asked for help with her hands "I just find I have such busy hands, what can I do about that?"

This horse, whose "real" name was something wonderful to do with chocolate, barn name Samson, was unsettled, throwing his head around, and rushing a few strides in one direction then the other in a way that did not look like they were in agreement. The curious thing was, when you watched closely, neither horse nor rider seemed to have any desire to be in disagreement. Marilyn's hands were indeed rather erratic and so was the horse. But why? She had plenty of miles in a saddle and knew she needed to still them. Pretty soon, I realized I couldn't talk fast enough to coach her from the ground at the speed things were changing. 

After riding him a few moments I noticed something funny, or amusing to me anyway. "Hey Marilyn! Look! I have busy hands too!!" and stated the obvious conclusion "it must be your horse!!!" HAHA. The reason was that when you rode to the left he'd pitch to the right slightly, and vice versa, plus he had no real straight in between. It certainly made it easy to find yourself sliding into making constant adjustments with legs and hands. Plenty of scope for B U S Y!  He felt the way he looked with Marilyn though - he had no real plan to be resistant at all.

The real issue was one that causes rough rides and wrecks all over...

In response to a feel on the right rein, he loaded up the right shoulder, tipped the bridge of his nose to the left and thought left. In response to a feel on the left, he loaded up the left shoulder, tipped the nose to the right and thought right. In other words, there was a real mixup about the rider's meaning as well as his own locomotion to produce a smooth turn at all. This is EASY to set up unwittingly when handling the horse on the ground - until you know what to avoid and what to do instead. 

The good news is, this is also fairly easy to fix... in essence, instead of a clenched jaw and a loading of the shoulder in the direction of the intended turn, you need a released jaw and an offer of a hip on that side for things to get back on track. I got this going on Samson, then coached Marilyn to do the same. Then off she rode on her own and it was so FUN to see them really sharing the same plan about where they were going together and things started to look more mellow from there :)

Well, this was meant to be a short post bwahaha, but it just all came flooding back when I saw this picture. It's a story that touched me to the CORE. 

CAN YOU GUYS SEE? With the setup this horse had, as much as he tried to get along, he had a built in response to the feel on a rein that would have him pitch both shoulders if a rider picked up a contact on both reins? And then could appear "resistant" about going forwards (having got in his own way)? And then... if pressured to move forwards, would have little available to him but to liven up in the hips i.e buck? And that this... in fact... would be an accurate response in terms of the Feel from the rider relative to his body at that moment...?    

I was rabbiting on about this to Marilyn as she listened rather intently. My purpose was simply to dispel the myth that this horse had any other plan than to get along, with all the heart in the world. As I finished, Marilyn said "Well that is exactly what happened. The trainer was riding on contact. He wouldn't go forward, no matter how much she asked, so she eventually added a flick of her training whip behind". My heart sank right there, plunged over the cliff.  

The point though... Horses are AMAZING. Just LOOK! at the response in these two DEAR horses after one ride that brought new clarity to their connection under saddle. They are SO ready to dump the misunderstandings and take a fresh start. That's Wendy behind - her story was as touching for totally different reasons, but that is for another time LOL


Mark Rashid


"I see an 'opening' as anything that allows us to help guide, however briefly, an individual in the direction we ultimately would like to go. An 'opening' can be, and often is, a very subtle form of communication between horse and rider that can easily slip past us if we're not paying attention. 'Openings' can and do work both ways. [...] It amazes me just how small an 'opening' can actually be, whether working with horses or with people, and how easy it can be to create an 'opening' when one is needed."

Mark Rashid

"I truly believe developing the ability to see and use 'openings' effectively is only one piece of what one might refer to as the 'harmony in horsemanship' puzzle. When this idea of understanding 'openings' is brought together with the understanding of two other simlar ideas - making a connection with another indvidual, and the role distance plays in overall communication - I believe it is then that harmony in horsemanship becomes a much less daunting concept for us."

Mark Rashid

Leslie Desmond


"Bill knew about a place I did not know existed, or could exist, between a horse and a human being [...] Bill included each one of my horses in that information exchange. Over the course of many months,... he took each one by its lead rope and, later, by the bridle reins. Using what he called his 'better feel', Bill showed me and each of them exactly what he meant by what he did [...] It was not long after I made the switch from force when needed (often) to always customizing the feel I offered to a horse, that two tough horses I had misunderstood for years developed into my most reliable mounts."

Leslie Desmond

The lightest hands carry intent that is recognized instantly by the horse, as seen in the maneuvers he chooses to make with his feet. Whether that horse is ridden or handled, the lightest hands can purposefully influence the speed, direction and sequence of each foot with accuracy, in a manner that is reflected in the horse's body and on his face.

Leslie Desmond

Bill Dorrance


"The Real Masters Understood Feel [...] For example, De Kerbrech, (French officer in the cavalry of Napoleon III) really understood horses. He had it fixed up so the horse could succeed. [...] The first time I read Beudant's book was in the 1950s. The way he explained things, there was no doubt in my mind about what a person needed to do to get these little things working for them and their horse."

Bill Dorrance

“Feel, timing and balance: sometimes it’s best to talk about feel, timing and balance separately, and to learn how to apply each thing separately on the start. But when you apply these three things a little later in your training, then you see that each one of these things supports the other. They are interconnected and all three are real important. You really can’t get along without all three.”

Bill Dorrance

Faverot de Kerbrech


“ le deplacement du poids est facile dans tous les sens, plus l'equilibre est parfait. En vertue de ce principe, on dit que le cheval est 'en equilibre' quand de simples indications suffisent au cavalier pour modifier a son gre la disposition du poids sur ses colonnes de soutien”

Faverot de Kerbrech

[Translation: ...the easier it is to shift the weight in any direction, the more perfect the balance. By virtue of this principle, the horse is 'in balance' when a simple indication from the rider is sufficient to modify the distribution of weight across the columns of support (four quarters) accordingly]

Duke of Newcastle


"You must in all Airs follow the strength, spirit, and disposition of the horse, and do nothing against nature; for art is but to set nature in order, and nothing else."

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle

"A confrontational approach ‘Astonishes the Weak Horse […] makes a Furious horse Madd; makes a Resty Horse more Resty […] and Displeases all sorts of Horses’. The alternative however is not ‘to Sit Weak […] but to Sit Easie’, in the understanding that ‘The Horse must know you are his Master’"

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle