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Stay Calm While Training

That is the best advice I have heard about training anything, especially horses.  At the end of the training session the horse should be calmer than when you started, and so should you.  I learned that from John Lyons, one of the best trainers out there.  I have learned a lot over the years and I have made a lot of mistakes.  Any good trainer will make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  Hopefully, those mistakes won’t be repeated.  Horses are very forgiving creatures.  They want to please and be accepted.  Just watch them in a herd.  Harmony is established with the pecking order.

The horse at the top of the pecking order keeps peace with quick, decisive action then goes back to grazing or sleeping, in other words stays calm.  This is where a trainer has more luck training when the trainer assumes the position of being the one at the top of the pecking order.  A lot of yelling, arm action, running around and chasing is going to get you nowhere fast.  This will only cause the horse to become nervous and try harder to get away from all the chaos, when all it wants is to feel safe.  The best trainers stay calm, speak quietly and keep their body language to a minimum.

When training in the round pen, I stay in the middle, always face the horse, keep my arms down as much as possible and try to use deliberate but specific body language.   I want the horse to recognize me as the leader and the one who will keep him safe, so I am looking for a bond between us.   Sometime this is established quickly and sometimes it takes work, depending on the disposition of the horse.  I always want the horse to calm down as quickly as possible so as to understand that he has made the right choice and learn to trust me.  He will learn quickly that I can move him which ever way I want and that I can back off and let him calm down also.

Staying calm also works under saddle.  A relaxed rider is much more easy for the horse to carry than one who is stiff and harsh with body language.  A relaxed horse learns quicker and will listen for cues more more readily than one who is anticipating a lot of harshness.  Also, know when to quit.  A training session will be absorbed more quickly by the horse when he can stop once you see he knows what you are asking.  You can easily pick up where you left off the next time, rather than repeating the session until the horse gets bored or aggravated from having to do the same this a dozen times over.  He will be more willing to be ridden the next time when he quits on a good note rather than be forced to keep going unnecessarily.

Accidents can happen in a heart beat.  If you have a horse that is nervous or explosive, I would suggest taking more time to make sure you are bonded with the animal before you start.  Then I would take my time in being sure he knows exactly what is expected of him before I go onto the next step.  This may take hours, it may take days, but you will need to look for acceptance in the animal and rote behavior in the performance.  When the horse is automatically doing what you ask before you ask, then he has learned the lesson well and you can move onto the next step.  Remember, a horse will mimic your behavior, he gets his calmness from you.  This may not happen in the first session, but over time he will learn to trust you and to look to you for his security just like in the pasture with the lead horse.

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    What is the difference?  A horse is a horse, right?  They all ride the same.  If they are trained they are supposed to know what to do, correct?  It is just a matter of kicking them to go and pulling on the reins to turn or make them stop.  If they aren’t doing what we want, then they need a trainer, isn’t that right?  We don’t need lessons, after all, just hang on the horse knows what to do.  All misconceptions!  Don’t believe a word of it.  Every horse has been trained according to the discipline that was chosen for it’s training.  What does that mean?  Western horses has a specific cue and different from a dressage horse.  Hunt seat horses perform differently from trail horses, etc., etc.  The one thing all these disciplines have in common is that fact that they have basic training.  They know how to go forward, turn left, right, back and stop.  But after that the cues for staying in gait (walk, trot, canter, running walk, etc.) are very different.  This is where training and lessons with the trainer in riding a horse comes in handy.

Riding a gaited horse such as, tenneessee walking horse, rocky mountain horse, paso fino, etc. are very different from the thoroughbred, quarter horse and others that naturally trot.  It is easy to see this difference in the way they move.  Walking horses move right hind, right front then left hind, left front, ( lateral gait) whereas the walk/trot horse will move right hind, left front, left hind, right front  at a walk.  This is a very different feel under saddle and may be a bit confusing at first, because you may think the horse is lame if you are riding a walking horse for the first time and aren’t used to this particular gait.  Also, another point to remember, is that the walking horse isn’t always smooth as we are often lead to believe.   There are so many different ‘gaits’  these horses are capable of performing that it can be confusing for the first timer to find the correct one and know how to keep the horse there.  I won’t go into explaining the differences like, running walk, rack, pace, and others, but I will say that you either can feel it and know it or you need an instructor/trainer to explain it to you and help you discover what your horse can do and how to keep the horse in gait for a smooth and comfortable ride.

As far as walk/trot horses, they will walk, trot, canter and gallop.  Their different ‘gaits’ are in free, working, medium, extended, collected or relaxed walk/trot/canter.  You either post or do a sitting trot, sit the canter, stand up in the canter or go half-seat.  As with the walking horse you are always sitting as these horses are not allowed to trot, so there is no posting required.  It is easy to change from gaited to walk/trot horses once you know what you are riding, how to feel it, perform it and how to ask the horse what do to.   But it is rare to find a person with a natural sense of what to do that can automatically pick it up and keep the horse performing perfectly. Once again, I stress the importance of a trainer/instructor to learn from before just deciding to switch from one to the other and be disappointed to find that you cannot ride a particular horse and think that it is the horses fault.  Afterall, they only do what we, the rider, ask them to do even if we don’t know ourselves what it is we are asking.

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Learning the Obstacles

This is my quarter horse, Lakota.  He is lazy, over weight and motivated to eat as much and as often as he can, but he is a great trail horse.   Nothing phases him on the trail, except cows.  He could never make it as a cow horse.  He has learned to go through all my obstacles and teaches my students too!   Sometimes trail riding can be challenging if we have a horse that sees something ‘scary’ and refuses or rushes.

This is where we,  here at Baymount Farm,  can help you with trail and obstacle training.  Periodically throughout the year we will be having Obstacle Training Clinics.  Our first is January 28, 2012.   Following is a quick run-down of what we are offering and will be teaching.

The day starts at 9 am with a brief introduction and explanation of activities for the day.  At 10 am we will start  demonstrations on how to teach your horse from the ground to accomodate each obtacle.  We will have a one hour lunch break at 12:30, then continue at 1:30 with obstacle training.  Each person will have the opportunity to teach their horse how to go through the obstacles on the ground and under saddle.  The day will end with a bonfire, hot chocolate and snacks.    Overnight primitive camping is available for those who want to stay and ride at Latta Planation the next day.  Latta is 40 minutes away and provides plenty of riding by Lake Norman.   There is also Leatherwood  northwest of us off 421 near Wilkesboro  and Blowing Rock just north of us on highway 321.  All of which are easy to get to and have good parking for large trailers.
  1. 9 am    Introduction and explanation of the days activities.
  2. 10 am  Demonstration on safely leading and moving your horse around an obstacle and how to calm them down to keep from being trampled.
  3. 10:20 am – 12:30 pm  Demonstration on the obstacles.  We will take this one obstacle at a time and answer any questions you may have.  There are no more than 10 obstacles.   Each person will have the opportunity to practice these with help from the staff if needed.
  4. 12:30 – 1:30 pm  Lunch!   Grilled hamburgers, chili, slaw, southern potatoes, dessert, drinks.
  5. 1:30 – until dark thirty pm.  Demonstration on obstacles, practice trail, practice obstacles and afternoon snacks.
  6. 7:30 pm  Seminar by the bonfire on Bach Flower Remedies for horses health given by local pharmacist.  This will wow you on how simple homeopathics can change your horses demeanor and calm them down.   A brief demonstration will accompany talk.
  7. Sunday  Saying good-bye and heading out to ride or for home.  Take your time on this, no scheduled time to be out.  I will be up and around by 6:30 to feed our crew, so just let me know if you need anything that morning.
  8. For information on cost and directions visit Baymount Acres Training.

   This is one of my students learning to cross a bridge safely.  This is also one of the obstacles we will be practicing crossing.

Here is Jake taking a student over poles.  These are moveable by the horses so they learn to walk through limbs on the trail and not spook if they should shift.

Here is Jake taking a student through simulated vines.  This little girl was a trooper learning to do this.

We will also be opening and closing gates, crossing creeks safely, going through tunnels, going over catwalks, trotting poles and much more.  You will leave feeling like you have accomplished a lot and be more confident on the trail.    Please register by emailing me at  or calling 704-902-7345.

Sera has a new home!


Some of you may remember that Sera is a thoroughbred mare that I acquired a few years ago.  She had been low on weight but otherwise in good condition.  I brought her home, fattened her up and started riding her.  I have had two wonderful years of learning to ride dressage on her.  She taught me to become a stronger, skilled and more confident rider.  Sera was a very good teacher.  In fact, I lost most of my fear of riding with her and learned to have a much more balance seat and quieter leg.  If I didn’t improve on those things, she would definitely let me know that I was doing everything wrong.  I love that horse, but it is time for her to teach others now.  Sera will be teaching college students and others how to become a better rider.  She will be given the opportunity to work with the University of Tennessee students.  Sera has been given a new home in New Market, Tennessee.  She has lots of acreage to explore with trail rides (1,000) and plenty of pastures to play and relax in while resting after hard work.

Checking out her new home.

Entrance barn at Hartbrook

Hartbrook Farm is the name of the place where she will reside.  It has a wonderful program and plenty of stalls.   20 stalls, in fact, with lots of activity and plenty of help to keep the place in order.  There are quite a few horses there with lots of pastures.   I saw no more that 4 horses to a pasture and they were all very fat and happy.  Even though it had been raining like crazy before we arrived the horses were out running and playing like a bunch of kids.

Owner at Hartbrook Farm

This wonderful lady is now the proud owner of Sera.   She is the owner of Hartbrook Farm and warmly accepted Sera into her program.   She was wonderful at helping us settle Sera into her new home and even let us play with her new Aussie puppies to distract us from the emotionality of the situation.  It was a bittersweet moment driving away from Sera.  She has been a cherished friend for two wonderful years.  I know she will be very happy in her new home.




I am trying to expand my horizons with my lessons/training and trail riding.  So I held my first mother/dauther trail ride recently and had a very nice time.  Four of my more experienced students and I went on a 3 hour ride including lunch.  We rode around fields, up and down roads and anywhere we could go on horseback.   Best of all, it was one of those beautiful October days with the sun shining and the leaves turning.

Watch the video and enjoy.  All trail rides with Baymount Farm leave the barn at 9 am and return around 5 pm.   Lunch is included, cost for mother/daughter is $175,  cost for individuals is $125.  Experienced riders only; riders must take a riding test at the farm to qualify the day before the ride and sign a waiver for liability form.   Most rides are held at South Mountain, Latta Plantation, Blowing Rock or New River Trails.

This is a 2 year old spotted saddle horse I have been training the last six weeks.  When she came to me she had only learned a few ground manners and lead very well, stood for grooming, hoof cleaning and a bath.  She was a little pushy and didn’t really know her place with the handler yet.  However, she is such a quick learner and so compliant, that it took her no time at all to settle in to a regular routine.  Now look at her.  This is the 5th time I have ridden her and only the 2nd time on a trail.

Notice her little buck.  That was too cute.  She was so eager to get going after we saddled up it was all she could do to stand still for mounting.  She took to the trails like a trooper.   We walked for about an hour around fields, down roads, by barking dogs, road signs of all kinds, over bridges and the like.  She never even flinched.   That is what good training and a calm horse is all about.  She is sheer joy to ride.

I have a few more weeks to get her gait improved and will be spending a lot of time in the arena with her.  However, I know she will take to it with a great attitude.  Training is one of my all time favorite things to do.   I am constantly learning something new with each horse that comes to me.  Even with all the knowlege and experience I have behind me from clinics, lesson and what-not, I am still taught something by the horses that come here for training.  So I say, bring it on.

I was on an ACTHA ride last year in Ocotober.  One of the obstacles we had to go through had jack-o-lanterns and a child in costume handing out candy.  What a great idea.  Thankfully, my litte arabian mare didn’t mind a bit.  But what would have happened had I not prepared her ahead of time.

I spend lots of time just walking horses through trail obstacles and exposing them to things they could come up against while working.  But this year I am going to be more creative and put out Halloween costumes and displays to get them ready for the season trails.   Things we take for granted can be a big scary ‘horse-easting’ beast to our horses.  You can do this at home.  Here are a few tips.

1.    Make a stick scare crow.  It’s easy just using a broom and duct tape a small branch across it for the arms.  Put old clothes on it and stick it in the ground.  Put an old hat on the broom part of it and don’t worry about it having a face.  Then hand walk your horse by it.  If your horse doesn’t spook, great!

2.  Get out an old sheet and hang it from a tree.  A slight breeze is all you need for this scary, ghostly object.  Be sure to hand walk your horse by it just in case.

3.  Take large black trash bags and drape them across bushes.  For more fun, turn your large trash can over and cover it with the bag, then put a pumpkin on top of it so that it looks more like a living object to the horse.   Be safe and once again hand walk  your horse by it first.

4.  I strongly suggest that you put these in an enclosed arena first before sticking them in your yard.  This keeps you and your horse safer in case he spooks and takes off running.

Your goal is to teach your horse to trust you and depend on you for guidance regardless of what he comes in contact with on the trail.  Go slowly, use lots of affirmation for your horse (pats, scratching withers and a kind voice works wonders).

For more on safe training for the perfect trail horse  go to or contact me at   704-902-7345.

I recently received a very nice appaloosa horse here for training that needed a refresher course on going forward.   He is a good mover, great conformation and really sweet disposition.  This big guy just didn’t want to go forward for his owner.  After working with him for a month and riding him nearly daily on trails and in the arena he was moving forward fine by the time he went home.  How did I do this?

I spent a lot of time riding him and refreshing his memory in the arena on being supple.  I used all the natural riding aids as in, legs, seat, hands and voice.  I also occasionally had to tickle him on the rump with the crop.  When I say tickle, I actually mean tickle, not hit, strike, beat or anything else.  Just the thought of the whip often times gets the horse motivated.  This particular horse was already well trained.   I found he became stuck occasionally when asked to move forward on the trail or going past his buddies.    This is where arena work comes in handy for the horse.

The main point I want to come to in this post is teaching the rider.   His owner had raised him and taught him herself.  But she was a little intimidated by  his attitude when he left his buddies or got stuck on the trail not wanting to go forward for her.  I worked with her for a few hours when she came to pick him up, teaching her to sit properly and use her natural aids.  Once she kept her legs on him, learned to bend her horse (which is a form of getting your horse supple) and learned to sit properly and securely, her whole riding experience changed for the better.  So techinically I helped her improve the way she rode which fixed the horse.

The moral here is to improve the way you ride to improve the performance of your horse.  The more you learn about riding, the more you convey that to your horse when you ride and before you know what is happening, the two of you are working together for a safe and happy ride.

For more on training the perfect trail horse check out our website at or contact me at   704-902-7345.

Training for Scary Objects

You can have a “no worries” trail ride by teaching your horse to be calm around unknown objects.  Just how do you do this?  Here are a few good tips to help you have a safe and happy horse.

1.  Teach your horse from the ground first.  It doesn’t matter what the ‘scary object’ is, but it does matter that you and your horse are safe.  If your horse is really nervous to the point that he/she wants to run away, then start out in a round pen.  Go quietly, speak softly, avoid sudden movements and be reassuring with lots of pats and attaboys. 
2.  Start out with small objects that don’t make a lot of noise.  Give your horse plenty of time to look at and smell the object.  Encourage him/her to approach slowly while reassuring them all is ok. 
3.  As you approach larger objects and your horse refuses to get near it, try free lunging and lots of turns to encourage the horse to get closer.  Be sure and take lots of breaks.  The idea here is not to tire the horse or force him/her to go through it, but to learn that he is not allowed to keep refusing.  Take your time on this, it doesn’t have to happen all in one lesson.  Remember in this case, less is more. 
4.  If you find yourself frustrated and wanting to push too hard, then stop and find a trail obstacle clinic.  Lots of farms are offering training at reasonable prices to teach you and your horse how to handle just this type of training.  It is always better to get help than get hurt.
For more information on training the perfect trail horse  visit  or contact me at    704-902-7345
Horse in Training at Baymount

This pretty little two year old horse is in training mode here at Baymount Farm in Statesville, North Carolina.  She came to us a few weeks ago as a very green horse.   She knew how to lead, stand and allow grooming and that was just about it.  BUT the owners had been so kind and consistent with her that she is a very trusting horse.  Nothing seems to spook this horse as she is learning her new trade in life.

 I combine ‘natural horsemanship’ along with classical training.  I like to take the best of both worlds and do what makes sense to me using a lesson plan for teaching the horse.  Therefore, I don’t miss any steps, make sure I think through what they need to learn in order while building on concepts and skills.  I don’t use harsh equipment, disciplines or force training.  I tend to think of these animals as children that I need to teach a sign language.  If I have to punish them or hurt them to get a reponse then I have lost the motivation for learning and just created a resentment that may show up as a problem somewhere down the road. 

The equipment she has on is not pretty, but it is used mostly for training and is old.  It is in good shape, but not something I would worry about losing in case she decided to roll suddenly or rub it up against the rails while learning to carry it.  So, pretty doesn’t matter while in the learning process, functionality does however.  The saddle is very light weight with western rigging.  The bridle is a full cheek snaffle and I have the reins tied up out of the way so she doesn’t step on them.  In the beginning when introducing the bridle I remove the reins altogether.
I always start training with horses in the round pen.  It is about 60′ in diameter so that they have plenty of room to move around but will not get away to far.  I will not put a horse under any amount of stress, but give them time to adjust and figure things out.  Starting one step at a time, one day at a time gives most horses the basics they need to make a skill a habit. 
I use round penning for a number of things and start out with the horse completely untacked.  I like to teach them to be de-sensitized to outside stimulis such as, flying objects, barking and running dogs, noise from four-wheelers, tractors and other equipment.  They learn to stand when entagled in rope so they don’t get hurt, walk over tarps and noisey objects as well as stand in place for ground tying.   These are only a few things they are exposed to before being saddled up.  If they do spook and run off, they won’t get hurt and I am there to quiet them and reassure them.  Next I teach them to back, move the forehand, haunches and give to pressure on the poll.
Using the lunging surcingle, we begin the ground work for lunging, bending, balancing and all the moves they need to be able to control and find the balance they will need under saddle.   Here is where they learn what the bridle and bit are for as well as what leg pressure will feel like and what it means.  It is a lot of time spent in small quantities so as not to bore or irritate the horse, but it is time well-spent a few times a day having fun.
Check out my web site for more information on training the perfect trail horse at Baymount  Farm.   You can contact me through or  704-902-7345.

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