Saturday, October 11, 2008

3rd Alumni Women's Camp Testimonies

The third Alumni Women’s Confidence Leadership Camp was Oct. 2-6th 2008 and the gals say it was the best one ever. Here are a few comments:

Thank You Sherry for all your preparation and commitment to our Women's camp. You really put your heart and soul into it this year, and I felt it was just perfect.

I love the Sandhills , mix that with my horse, furthering my horse knowledge and horse friends and I am in heaven.

I enjoyed learning new patterns. Now I understand the purpose of the patterns. Horses are pattern animals. Now I understand more clearly accepting "Good", and not just "good enough". And staying with the task until he is relaxed doing it.

Camp was awesome as usual-thanks to Sherry for mentoring and guiding us. A person really does learn tons of stuff about yourself (the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly) and lots of stuff about your horses.

I was really impressed with the leaps and bounds upward each of us has made and celebrated {and there were lots!} but more importantly how we hold each other accountable for positive progress, how we hold each other up when it's needed, and how we can share what we do have.

I only wish I could do camp more often. There is nothing like focused time on partnership with your horse.

Thank you for the nice thank you note. I loved the picture of me and Lexie on it! I would like to get one of that blown up. It really shows how far Lexie and I have come! I enjoyed this camp the most. I felt confident for once in my abilities and my horses abilities.

I really appeciated the private lesson format and the assessments. It made me take a good look at myself and even though I dreaded it I was pleasantly suprised by what I can actually do with my horse.

Every single time I've gone out since camp she's caught me. I don't push or force anymore, or grab when I can because I might not get the chance to again!! I let her decide to be with me. The other night I thought maybe we wouldn't get to ride because she kept changing her mind about staying with me. But then I thought, banish those thoughts from your mind, so what if you don't get to ride! That isn't the goal here! And wouldn't you know it she decided right at that moment to hook up with me!! It is so very very rewarding, words can't even describe my happiness, to see the changes in my horse because I have changed in my attitude, in my very being. And all for the better, all for the good, that even makes it worth even more to me!! Her placing her trust in me is the most best compliment she could ever give me, the best reward, and one I will guard and nurture with all that is within me. I can only think of one thing that would be even better: the feeling you must get knowing that your students and their horses are experiencing this partnership and that you had a hand in helping us do that! Thank you for that!! I will be forever grateful for this awesome, life changing experience.

I'd like to add that investing those dollars on riding lessons, clinics, or camps with Sherry regularly has a sneaky, surprise benefit in that you become better in dealing with people too, from casual acquaintances to your most personal relationships. Of course, my horses, mules, & I are absolutely enjoying the progress I'm making in horsemanship with Sherry's guidance and my perseverance.

Thank you for all your work preparing for Camp. The personaized notebook and materials, the cookie bag for my horse, making out a schedule, the obstacle courses outside, but especially for your always ready smile, positive attitude, your ever "upward and onward" striving to set and attain goals, and for the incredible vision to do what you're doing for those of us who have a passion for horses.
Thanks for sharing your "Gift",

Thank you for your kind words of support. You made my heart swell with pride. I took Dandy out in the hay field about 1/2 mile from my house on Friday and with some nice little incentive patches to eat on while he "rested" he was offering to canter on that weak side of his and it was wonderfully soft and collected. It continues to amaze me how collected and soft he can be when there is positive motivation. He is so smart. It only takes one reward before he learns the system and pretty soon he is offering to canter and then looking at me with those soft eyes asking if he can stop and eat again. It is just plain comical. By the end, I was getting almost two full circles at the canter on both sides. I have learn so much from you and you keep me moving in the right direction. Keep doing what you are doing---

I wanted to tell you that I got on my horse for the first time from the ground (the big quarter horse mare) using the mounting that you taught me. It is a lot less painful on my hips and I have been able to be a lot more comfortable getting on and off the horse. This is the first time since I got hurt that I have been able to do that without pain. I never would have realized that changing position would make such a major difference. Thank you.

Just wanted to say Thanks! for working to get the workshop at BKT stables set up last month. I really learned a lot, and have enjoyed new things to work on. I was able to ride Dominic (with the new saddle) for a couple of hours last night with a gal here at the stables. She is a pretty experienced rider, and I thought it was so nice of her to offer to buddy up. We stayed in the arena mostly, but even went out around the pens and barns -- walking and trotting. Actually, once I was up and on Dom, I felt a lot better about riding -- nice to have a saddle that fits!
But thanks again. I hope I will be able to join up with you again at a workshop!

Thanks for the fun time at camp. Brody is behaving very well now from after camp. Kelsey had a good time too.

Join our Yahoo Chat group to read more reports about the camp and get support and encouragement from other horse lovers seeking to enhance their horsemanship experience.

The camp and clinic schedule for 2009 will be out in the Nov. newsletter. So start planning now for a horse vacation which will give you a new perspective and confidence about your horsemanship which will take you to even more success and fun with your horse.

Horsemanship is a lifetime endeavor. The more we learn and experience the more artistic we can become in our expression of movement with the horse and the happier and more willing the horse will be.

Horse ownership is for fun, recreation and personal growth. Making the right investment to help insure less frustration and more safety will put the joy back into the experience. That is an invaluable gift.

Spending hard earned dollars on riding lesson, a clinic or camp may sound like a self indulgent luxury.  But, without coaching on a regular basis, the best professional athletes admit their performances begin to deteriorate.  At an amateur level, your investment in riding lessons will create personal joy and yield measurable progress in your goal to become the best rider and horseman you can be.  Isn't that what you expect?

Everything Counts Even the Little Things

"Everything Counts Even the Little Things!"
"Notes from Leslie Desmond Clinic in Fort Collins CO"

Leslie is a woman of detail. It was obvious she always had a plan, was thinking about her options and adjusting to fit the situation. Everything mattered to her and most important she could read a horse better than anyone I have ever seen. Her super insight into what the horse needed gave her the uncanney ability to be in the right spot with the correct guidance for the horse and therefore the horse offered her a willing and soft response.

As I travel around the country it seems most people just want to get on and ride their horse. They want riding lessons more than anything else. Most of us don't pay enough attention to the little stuff like how we hold our horse. The very first thing Leslie addressed was the importance of how to set up a horse to be with you. She said, "A horse needs to learn how to be with you." This begins with the basics of how and where we stand as we hold a horse. She suggested we always stay at the shoulder behind the elbow, because this position is better for the horse. As we do this we should blend with the horse and let them be. Our belly button should always be behind the elbow to love and give affection to our horse. Don't love on the nose of a horse, it is RUDE! Even when we are hanging out with a horse we are training them.

Many people stand to far forward where they have to keep bumping the head of the horse to keep him still. In this spot they are in the horses blind spot. By not standing in the blind spot the horse will be able to keep his feet still because he can see anything he needs to look at by moving his head not his feet. When we stand in his blind spot the horse always has to adjust his feet in order to see something of concern to him. Blocking a horses view teaches them to move you because they are trying to see. So it is better to stay out of the way. This is all part of learning how not to set our horses up to fail, instead set them up to succeed.

Leslie pointed out there are many ways to be with a horse and some work better than others. However it doesn't matter what way you choose because horses can and do figure out what we want because of who they are not because of who we are or how skilled we are. She said, "Horses are PEOPLE EXPERTS!" This is why they have survived in our world for so long. Horses know what we know and more important they know what we don't know. We should never forget what a horse needs us to know.

Leslie pointed out that everyone who holds a lead rope is a trainer. Even the person who mucks your stall or feeds your horse, your vet, farrier, or anyone else who handles your horse are all trainers of your horse. If we miss the small stuff it will turn into big stuff. If your presence makes a horse upset you must make the neccessary changes in you which will make a difference for the horse. Don't expect the horse to change first. A horse will come to your level of competence. Your presence should bring out the best in a horse.

We heard over and over the importance of ground work in order to have a successful riding horse. Some of the quotes from my notes are:
• Every ride reflects the ground work you have or don't have.
• Efficiency of your ground work determines whether you can get shoulders and lightness into a turn or not when riding.
• Refinement on riding needs to be built in on the ground first.
• You can't get a better riding horse than what you have on the ground.
• Don't ride a horse who doesn't respect you on the ground.
There are two other aspects I will mention in this newsletter which were a repetitive theme throughout the clinic : ATTENTION and INTENTION!

It seems fairly obvious you have to have the attention of a horse before you ask them to do something. But if you really start watching, it will amaze you how many times people ask a horse for something when his attention is else where. You don't have to bear down on a horse to get their attention. Be more subtle, use their curiosity. If you have the horses attention and you can think it and visualize it they will do it willingly and instantly.

Your intent has to be clear to you or the results won't be clear to the horse. When the horse stops being the focus they will blend in with you. If you focus with great intention on where you are going the horse will have more confidence to come along with you.

I took 10 pages of notes at this clinic so this is just the very beginning. You can expect more notes from what I learned in the next newsletter. I must go now, because tomorrow is the beginning of the Alumni Women's Confident Leadership Camp. The first year the theme for this very special group of women was "Hearts finding wings so dreams can fly". Last year the theme was "The Journey Continues". This year we will be asking ourselves "Are we there yet?" So until next time remember to make your intent clear and get your horses attention before asking him to do something, because everything counts even the little things.

Happy Trails,

Build a Better Stop


My horse just doesn’t stop very well. She sorta stops sometimes, but most of the time she won’t stop well. What can I do to help my horse stop better?


I like the way you asked the question. It tells me a lot about your attitude towards horsemanship. I think you are the kind of person who is trying to see this stopping business from the horse’s point of view. Many people would have asked the question in a much different way. If a person asks me “How can I make my horse stop?” It tells me they might be thinking the horse is doing something wrong rather than thinking the rider needs to change the way they present a request to the horse in order to help the horse feel like stopping.

The stop in a horse starts way before you are riding at a gallop and pulling back on the reins to make your horse stop. The stop starts before you ever mount your horse. The stop starts by teaching your horse to stand still when you halter the horse, brush and saddle him, trim his feet, or mount, etc. A stop is nothing more than a request for the feet to stay still. If your horse won’t stand still any other time very well, then stopping him while riding will be difficult no matter what aides or cues you use to request a stop. So I would start with the basics of teaching my horse to stand still in many situations at any time I ask, and that does not mean through physical restraint like cross ties or hobbles. Although it will also benefit your stop to teach your horse to stand still in hobbles or while being tied. You see everything is related to everything else, and everything matters even the little things. So every hole you have in your training will affect another part of your training.

Since you didn’t really explain to me what kind of stop you wanted to build in your horse, I have to make some assumptions. I’m not sure whether you want to learn a one-rein stop for emergencies or a sliding stop? Some people are satisfied with a dribble to a stop as long as the horse eventually stops for them. It depends on your goals and what you like doing with your horse, what kind of stop you want to build in your horse. However there is no doubt about it, the better your stop is no matter what discipline or activity you choose to do with your horse you will be safer if your horse stops well. I believe everyone who rides a horse should know how to do a one-rein emergency stop so well they could do it in their sleep. It may save your life some day. But if you haven’t trained for it, it won’t work!

A real stop is when the butt drops and the hind feet dig in right now at the slightest hint of asking for it, then the horse stays put happily, until asked to move off. I like to train so my horse enjoys giving me the stop because it is comfortable for him to do it. He also has to be content to follow my lead when stopping and standing still, which means I have to stop in my mind and body then stand still for him to be able to follow my lead. If I keep squeezing my legs and keep my energy up while pulling on the reins in order to try to stop the horse I am giving him mixed signals and it won’t be comfortable for him to want to stop. I have to present a feel in my whole body that signals a stop, before I ever do anything with the reins. Then I have to stand still in my mind and body in order for the horse to follow my lead.

A good stop is built from getting a good back up first, whether you are on the ground or riding the horse. So I ask you the question “How light and responsive is your horse to backing up?” If it feels like pulling a freight train which is off its tracks and the front feet are leaving trenches in the ground, then you have to fix the back up before the stop will improve. The idea is to go from forward to backing and then stop.

The next question which is important to ask and seems so obvious is “Do you have the horse’s attention?” Without the horse’s attention, you’ve got no horse to stop or back up.

Clear communication is possible only when you have the horse’s attention. See if you can get the horse to willingly move his thoughts along the direction you ask. Horses are heavy, but thoughts weigh nothing. So if you can direct a thought it requires only the slightest effort on the person’s part. When a person learns to direct the horse’s thoughts, there is no battle, no hauling back on the reins for a stop. If you and your horse can share the idea of “stopping together” then you don’t need to put any real pressure on the reins. You should be able to get a stop from adjusting your seat, but that takes a good independent seat. Which leads us to the next question in order to answer your question?

How is your independent seat when riding? Without a good seat, it will be very difficult if not impossible to present a properly timed feel and release with your seat and hands so the horse understands he is to stop and stand well. I have noticed a person with a poor seat cannot have quiet soft hands which are able to present clear communication. A rider with a good seat can have good hands if they pay attention to it, and therefore can avoid getting too heavy in the horse’s mouth in order to build a good stop.

If your horse stands still in all kinds of situations without physical restraint whether you are on the ground or riding, if you have and can keep your horse’s attention, if your horse is thinking of stopping, if your horse backs light and responsive, if you have as good independent seat and know how to stop in your body, if your hands can present a firm feel without pulling, if you can present a perfectly timed release you will have the ingredients for a good stop. There are other ingredients which will be necessary to build a long sliding stop like Reiners do, but these are the basics which will set most recreational riders up for success at building a better stop.

If you would like individual instruction on the ingredients discussed above for building a better stop, Sherry instructs riders on all of these foundational skills at every clinic she teaches. Go to for a clinic, camp, and private lesson schedule, or host your own clinic and ride for FREE.

Happy Trails,