Our blog is moving!

Our new website is ready to go and our blog is moving! Instead of exclusively having a blog, we now have our full website up and running. Our blog page will be moving there, and this one will be discontinued. Any new posts will be posted to http://www.ledgeendacres.com/ledge-end-lore-blog/ .

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I also highly encourage you to subscribe to our new email newsletter. Being on that list will allow us to contact you if our website is ever having technical difficulties, is completely down, or we have to move anything else. If there is anything not working for you on our new website, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We hope you enjoy our new website!


5 signs you have a good relationship with your horse

I was recently reading a blog post written by Stacy Westfall about Connecting with your horse. She discussed ways to recognize whether you have a good relationship with your horse, or whether you are a “dictator or doormat.” She also posed comparing your relationship with your horse to a friendship with another person.

I thought this was an interesting article to reflect on. It made me ask myself, “am I good friends with my horse?” My gelding, Rogue, has been my main riding horse since I was 15. I like to think we are good friends, but I really had to think through a few aspects in order to confirm that we are, indeed, friends. I wanted to share a few of the things I thought about while assessing our friendship.


1.       He doesn’t take my mistakes personally. Occasionally, when I’m working with my horses, I’ll make mistakes – put a little too much pressure in the wrong spot, not quit exactly at the right time, bump him in the face with my stick, etc. Whenever I have one of these “oops” moments, Rogue doesn’t take it personally and fly off the handle. We’ve worked together long enough for him to know that when I slip up, he doesn’t need to freak out about it.

2.       I don’t take his mistakes personally. On the other hand, Rogue also makes mistakes sometimes (as we all do!). Sometimes, when I ask him to do one thing, he does another. Example: I ask him to sidepass, and he disengages his hindquarters instead. These cues are very similar to each other when I’m in the saddle, so it’s understandable that he mixes them up at times (in fact, horseman Larry Stewart once taught me that the disengagement is a very important piece of going sideways – he says it’s better to have his back end go sideways FIRST instead of the other way around, in which case he would really just be walking forwards). Whenever this sort of thing happens, I’m able to simply adjust myself and ask him again. Usually he’ll get it right.

My point is that I don’t need to get frustrated when things like this happen. In fact, when it DOES happen, I usually blame myself for not being clear enough.

3.       He tries new things I ask him to do, even if he’s scared. As an example, trailer loading is not a thing Rogue especially likes to do. Way back when, he was forced into a trailer a few too many times – my 4H club members didn’t understand the approach and retreat concept, so they kindly helped me chase my horse into the trailer when he refused (I appreciate they were trying to help, but they really made things worse). When I started practicing loading him in a way where he was given a choice as to whether he would get in or not, he was obviously scared and not too willing. But he still tried. I’d let him get in and out, and eventually he didn’t feel like it was too bad. He’s still not the best, but we’re still working towards the day when he’ll jump in and not have to get out at least a few times. Because I don’t put constant pressure on him to get in that trailer, he sees me as a leader and a friend, as opposed to a predator trying to corner him.

4.       I have confidence in him when we try new things. Instead of leading him to new obstacles, I give him the responsibility of being sent to them. I don’t lead him, pet and tell him “it’s okay”; he wouldn’t learn to gain courage that way. I will reassure him if he tries, but my reassurance is a release of pressure to let him know he’s trying the right thing. I put my confidence in him that he can do it without me spoon-feeding him; he can do it by following my suggestions. I also have confidence that he won’t hurt me and that he’ll try to stay in his learning state of mind.

5.       I don’t micromanage him. If I did, he would get frustrated pretty fast! With horses, you have to let them make a mistake before correcting it. We riders get in the habit of preventing them from making mistakes – keeping them from eating grass, instead of bringing their head up once it’s down; holding contact on the reins to prevent them from speeding up, instead of slowing them down once they start speeding up. This prevention is really micromanaging – if he never makes the mistake, and isn’t corrected, he’s not going to learn that maintaining gait is expected behaviour. You’ll be stuck preventing him forever, instead of correcting a few times. Preventing him will also get him frustrated, or “sneaky” – he’ll get that bite of grass when you’re least expecting it. Letting him know that he’s expected not to eat grass (unless, of course, you specifically tell him he’s allowed to) will cause your horse to respect you much more, and get you much further ahead in your relationship.

Rogue and I still have a lot of practice on our hands in order to be able to perform riding finesse, tricks, and some other advanced tasks. But, we’ve got a good relationship going and we’re well on our way. The most important thing, which comes before being able to do tricks and all that fancy stuff, is our relationship. Always put the relationship first and one day, your horse will reach for the stars with you.


Does your horse consider you a friend? Do you have a mutually respectful and trusting relationship?

Inspiration – The Mane Event Chilliwack

This past weekend we attended The Mane Event in Chilliwack, BC. This expo always provides great educational clinics, as well as impressive presentations and promotions. We discovered some great new products this year, and learned a lot from some very knowledgeable clinicians.

Ruben Villasenor was one of the clinicians that stood out to me. He is a calm, collected, and effective horseman who puts on a spectacular western dressage performance. He performed one of these routines in the Equine Experience show we attended on Friday night. The western dressage is a fun deviation of classic dressage; Ruben came into the ring with his Arabian stallion, “dancing” to new country music. The whole performance looked like loads of fun, for both horse and rider.


We also attended a couple of Ruben’s informational clinics, where he demonstrated how his custom bosal works on a horse. I’m definitely adding this hackamore to my wish list – I’m already a believer in hackamores (we use natural hackamores), but I like the way Ruben’s hackamores fit the horse. He explained why the noseband on his bosals sits so low on the horse’s nose (with one that sits higher, nerve damage can occur and cause your horse to become heavy on the reins). Ruben also demonstrated how much calmer a horse is when you take the snaffle bit out of his mouth. The horse is able to concentrate more on what you are asking him to do, and less on the uncomfortable, or sometimes painful, piece of iron in his mouth. I completely agree with starting horses on the bosal, until the rider is able to refine his cues and not have to use the reins much at all.

We also watched Doug Mills work with horses and riders of a few different levels. One of the mares he worked with had a similar personality to one of our older mares – calm and fairly unresponsive, until you ask her to do something unfamiliar. The mare’s owner didn’t seem confident enough to ride through the “panic attacks” the mare had (possibly from being thrown or scared from previous episodes – from the mares performance that I’m about to describe, I don’t blame her), so the mare seemed to be calm and a bit lazy. When Doug’s son, Kyle, mounted up and asked the horse to trot along the rail, she got very upset and started to speed up and come off the rail. Each time she did this, Kyle would turn her into the rail and head the other way. At first, the horse was an absolute basket case, and started into flight mode. She ran and ran, until she finally figured out that if she maintained gait and stayed on the rail, he would leave her alone. Slowly, her energy level started to come down as she figured things out. It was a great visual of how pushing a horse through her emotional phase actually allows her to work it out in less time than it would take if the rider were to hold her back and slap a bigger bit on.


My favourite clinician of the weekend was Steve Rother. Apart from being a very entertaining speaker and performer, Steve had some very informative things to say. I really liked how he described giving your horse a choice – he said, “you can do this, or you can do that.” This quote really hit home for me, because although I had been sort of doing that in my training already, I feel like my method was more “if you do this right, you can rest.” Sort of the same thing, but different packaging. Starting out with new things, I think that giving rest is good – the horse is rewarded for doing the proper thing, and he knows he’s right and doesn’t have to search for the right thing to do. Eventually, though, once the horse knows what he should be doing, I would switch to Steve’s method – he explained it as, once the horse is comfortable with something, it is expected behavior, NOT something that needs reward. So, if my horse knows he should trot on a circle, and he leaves the circle, I would help him leave and push him. When he decides that he should come back to his circle, I will bring him back – but he doesn’t need the reward to know he’s doing the right thing. When I leave him alone, he knows he’s doing the right thing. It’s expected behavior and he doesn’t need the rest reward. Leaving him alone is reward enough for expected behavior.


Steve also participated in the Equine Experience show, putting on a hilarious “all-breed all-discipline” show – all with the same horse! He took his horse, Professor, through all the moves, making a parody of all the different disciplines out there. Way to go Professor for keeping the “try” going!

Finally, Steve did a fantastic “doma vaquera” performance, western style. Doma vaquera is a beautiful horse and rider routine that is derived originally from daily duties on cattle ranches. Steve had a long pole which he dragged one end of on the ground, and did a variety of maneuvers, including spins! He had to rhythmically lift the pole over his own head, and then over his horse’s head. This looked pretty good when the spins sped up! You can see a similar performance in this video, from the Washington State Horse Expo in 2012.

Of course, we can’t forget about Francesca and her minis – they did a fabulous liberty demo, and had this Jack Russell ride out with them! Absolutely adorable and fantastic routine.


All in all, The Mane Event this year was a very informative and fun event to attend. We will definitely be back next year – hopefully with our own horses!

Did you attend this year? Who was your favourite clinician?

Why I ditched my snaffle bit for a bosal hackamore

I used to ride with a snaffle bit in my horse’s mouth. I used it because it was the only way I knew how to turn her, to stop her, and in general, control her. I used virtually no leg aids, and relied on my reins completely in order to communicate with my horse.

I also had a horse that had no grasp of slowing down – she would race home faster than the speed of light any chance she got, and if she didn’t get the chance, she would proceed to prance the entire way home, making my ride much less than enjoyable. Any time my Dad would come for rides with me, wanting to take in the gorgeous view of the lake we got from the bluffs, my horse would try to kill me by dancing, rearing, circling, and doing basically anything else she could think of in order to force me to let her run. The bit did essentially nothing – her mouth would be gaping as I tried to slow her to a manageable speed.

The last year I rode that same horse, it was without anything on her head at all. She went anywhere with just a rope hackamore on, and in the arena she did anything you asked by just using your legs, seat, and occasionally a stick to guide her in the right direction. Of course, she still liked to go fast, but there were no more fights with her out on the trail to get her to stand still.

Manitoba 101_

Why the drastic change? Well, there are certainly a few factors.

One definite reason is changing from the snaffle bit to a bosal style hackamore. (This switch might be opposite of what you might think – if you have a horse that won’t stop, wouldn’t you put a stronger, harsher bit in their mouth? I’ll explain my logic here in a minute.)

An even more important factor for the change in my horse was the change in my attitude and methodology towards her. Instead of forcing her to stop, turn, etc. with the bit, I put a hackamore on (keep in mind I started doing this in an enclosed area – start small and work your way up!). I would ask her to flex her neck, and at first, she wouldn’t. But with a little consistency and even more persistency, she eventually figured out that she wasn’t being forced to do anything – which made her less reluctant to actually do the things I was asking her to do.

So you see – that is why I didn’t put a stronger, harsher bit in her mouth. She wasn’t misbehaving because I didn’t have enough control of her physically – it was because I didn’t have enough control of her mentally. I also developed techniques that helped me ask her, rather than tell (for example, if she starts getting too fast, I’d tip her nose to one side to get her attention instead of pulling straight back on both reins).

Dixie is now my retired pet. She suffered from a hernia a couple of years ago, and I haven’t ridden her since. However, she still enjoys her pets and treats, and I’m sure she appreciates that she now gets to accept what happens to her, and not submit to what happens to her.


Have you ridden with a bosal? What were your results?

4 ways to halter train your older horse

This article may not be exactly what you expect. It is not a step by step method of how to halter train. And, it is not a list of things to do with every horse you are halter training.

Why? Because there really IS no specific method of halter training your horse.

All horses react differently to different pressures, rewards, and situations. We recently started halter training four mares (5-year olds), who all have different personalities, characters and emotions. These mares had quite a bit of handling without ropes, so they were friendly and relatively tame, but still had no understanding (and a little bit of fear) of what halters, ropes, sticks, etc. meant. The relationship was beginning, but the communication was not there.

What this article covers is my experience with all four of these different horses, and how I dealt with each of them differently in order to get them on their way to leading respectfully, calmly, and most importantly, fearlessly. I’ve included some key personality traits for each of them, so that you can read which one applies to your own horse and hopefully you can take away some ideas to work with and apply them to your own situations.

(Disclaimer: Keep in mind that there IS NO FORMULA for training, but there are certain measures you can take to set yourself up for success with a variety of personalities. These are examples of the ways I dealt with these horses’ personalities. They are in no way the only way to handle these situations. Please see our comment policies page for guidelines on any comments, questions or concerns.)

Smoky – black Morgan mare
Personality traits: “freezes” when fearful, explosive if pressured, confident in some aspects, very willing and friendly once you gain her trust


(Photo credit: Tim Cardinal)

Smoky was one of the most interesting of the group to work with on line. She is an odd combination of over-confident and extremely fearful. She also has an interesting way of expressing her emotions – when she becomes afraid, she will first “freeze” by gluing all four feet to the ground. If you pay attention to her eyes and ears, you can tell how much her fear grows with more and more pressure. When she reaches her threshold, she will suddenly EXPLODE in a flurry of jumps and rears. She would do this each time I put pressure on the halter, behind her ears.

It’s important to note that she was NOT misbehaving in any way when she did this little “dance.” I recognized that she simply didn’t understand, and as a flight animal, this misunderstanding turned directly into a fear-based response.

At first, I thought that the 12-foot lead line I use would scare her more, and tried using just my hand on the halter. After a few occasions of Smoky pulling me around, and in turn, becoming even more fearful because I was getting pulled AT her each time she reacted, I realized that putting the lead on would actually help her learning. (Sometimes, allowing the horse more “drift” helps them feel less trapped and actually will help them stay in the right state of mind to continue learning.) Since her brain flipped into survival mode each time she pulled me, the line allowed me to avoid getting pulled quite so much, and Smoky was therefore more easily able to stay in the right frame of mind.

Even after discovering the best methods to work with Smoky, she took the longest out of all of the mares to understand what she was being asked to do. The pattern didn’t change for quite a while: I would put pressure on her halter, she would “freeze,” then explode, and I would hold a steady pressure on the line and release when she came down from her rearing (this way, she was releasing her own pressure – when she came towards me, the pressure stopped).

But suddenly – Smoky had an “a-ha!” moment! Instead of REACTING to the pressure behind her head, she thought for a moment, and RESPONDED to the pressure instead. And again. And again. She finally had it!


(Photo credit: Tim Cardinal)

Verdict: With this type of horse, it is VERY IMPORTANT to give them the drift, patience and time it takes for them to grasp something. Once Smoky figured out what she was being asked to do, she HAD it. On the contrary, if I had pressured her too much and gone too fast, she could develop an emotional, explosive response to every request from then on. (We have a gelding related to her that was trained quite young, and was pressured a lot. He is a perfect example of what Smoky could be like with too much pressure – he is flighty and explosive, and he bucks when the saddle squeezes him.)

As natural horseman Pat Parelli would say – “take the time it takes so it takes less time.” This is especially true for horses like Smoky!

CoCo – sooty chestnut Morgan mare
Personality traits: trusting, laid-back, forgiving


(Photo credit: Tim Cardinal)

CoCo’s first experience with a halter was when she was three years old. It was not a great experience – we were forced to use a halter when she injured her back leg. Because she was untrained, and at that point still not even very tame, we had to shoo her and one other filly into a small chute/pen we had built so she couldn’t move away when we tried to clean her wound. One person would hold CoCo’s head with the halter, and the other would dress the wound.

Not the best way of doing things – but it was the only way we could treat her injury. Situations like this remind me of how important foal imprinting is. (These mares were acquired when they were two year olds, and they had next to no handling when we purchased them. Our experiences with them have encouraged us to handle our babies from day one.)

Once CoCo’s leg was healed enough, she was turned back out to pasture, and not haltered again for quite some time.

When she was handled again, she was of course not especially excited to see that nasty rope. To gain her trust back, we built a round pen near the house to keep her in for a while. Every day, my mom walked through her pen several times when going out to feed the horses. Eventually, once CoCo decided this was OK, we worked towards simply putting the halter on (and giving her a little treat once she had it on). CoCo started looking forward to getting her halter on, and by the end of a month of being in the round pen, she was leading like an old pro.

Again, CoCo was turned back out to pasture and not haltered for a while.

When I worked with CoCo again this summer, she had remembered all of her lessons from the second (good) experience. She was still leading like a champ!

Verdict: Even after a bad experience, CoCo’s forgiving personality allowed us to create a new, better bond with her. She is very trusting, and without that personality, we may not have been able to so easily regain CoCo’s trust. With horses like CoCo, you can afford to make some mistakes – a great personality for beginners!

Ginger – flaxen chestnut Morgan mare
Personality traits: not fully trusting, willing to try, very smart


Ginger is an interesting girl. She is somewhere between Smoky’s personality and CoCo’s personality – a little flighty, but still willing to try. She’s probably had the least handling out of all of these mares, so her flighty-ness may go away with more human contact. However, at this point, she is still in between trusting and not trusting people to keep her safe.

Ginger was probably the easiest of all of them to actually get the halter on. However, I had to approach her differently – I had to approach her in a very indirect, non-threatening manner, being careful to not directly face her when I walked towards her – that was too much pressure for her and she would run. However, when approached in the right manner, she was willing to try, and she stood still.

Once the halter was on, Ginger picked up the idea of leading very, very quickly. I think she pulled back only a couple of times, and then figured out that wasn’t what I was asking. After that, she was leading in the round pen, in her paddock, in and out of gates – any direction I asked her to lead in, she would go.

Verdict: Although Ginger picked the concepts I was teaching her very quickly, it will take many more hours to gain her full trust. She’s willing to try and fairly confident in herself, but she hasn’t developed confidence in people yet. More hours are all she really needs in order to develop a good relationship.

Cali – bay Morgan mare
Personality traits: a little bossy, very willing once you gain her trust


(Photo credit: Tim Cardinal)

Cali was the most different of the four mares to work with. At first, she was quite bossy, didn’t want to be caught, and would threaten to kick when I asked her to move her hindquarters over (without a halter on). She also seemed apprehensive of the halter altogether, and evaded me when I tried to put it on.

By taking it a bit slower, I was able to get the halter and lead on Cali’s head. Once the halter was on, she was much like Ginger – fast to pick up the concept of leading, without much pulling or confusion.

When I took the halter off, she was a different horse.

Cali is one of those examples of horses that completely change with a little bit of work. She now comes over for pets and love, and is not in the least bit bossy. I can even ask her to yield her hindquarters now with no questions asked.

Verdict: I think Cali was expressing her distrust by dominance. Once she decided I wasn’t a threat, she also decided that I was her “leader” and that there was no reason for her to try and dominate. Now that we’ve gained her trust, her continued training should be a breeze.

How have you halter trained in the past? How did your horse react or respond?

Inspiration – A Trip to Jackass Mountain

Over the weekend, we took a trip down to Washington state to see some of the most amazing Andalusian breeding stock in North America. Ami MacHugh, intriguing and witty owner of these wonderful horses, kindly invited us onto her ranch to look at her breathtaking horses (which she, adoringly, calls “ugly” – more on that later), and took us on the tour of our lives over her acres and acres of land to look at horse after horse. Funny enough, even after seeing so many horses, we never got tired of seeing more!

Our first stop was the barn, where we took a look at a few fillies she kept there, one of which was SO big she was actually taller than me at the lowest point on her back! Karamba was quite the sight, and at only two years old, I’m not sure I could mount her without a ladder, even now. (For those who don’t know, Andalusians are a later maturing breed, meaning Karamba still has another 4 years to grow.) She was quite the sight, and I have no doubt she will go far – her height makes her extremely athletic and her movement is to die for. Her personality is also a plus, which is extremely friendly and a little goofy.


It was around this point where we asked Ami what she looks for in her horses. She explained that she likes “ugly” horses – she wants them to be big boned, to have obviously strong muscles, and to not be dainty, “pretty” horses. Although she said her fillies are slighter boned than her stallions, they are still extremely well built and will likely pass that down in their genes.

Her stallions were even more something to look at – she described it well as “masculine.” She had quite a number of the boys tied quietly in their stalls for us to “ooh and ahh” over. They were very well behaved, and their personalities seem exceptional – she described them as the “Labrador of horses.”

Next stop was the pasture, where Ami keeps her mares and foals. It was really neat to see how many she had all kept in one pasture! I enjoyed this part the most, because it is so wonderful to see someone who keeps her horses in such a natural state. These babies learn from day one the rules of herd behaviour, which saves the humans from having to teach them later. It also is simply more natural for a horse’s herd instinct to be kept together. What a wonderful way to raise horses!

IMGP3059Overlooking the mares grazing on Jackass Mountain

Overall, we were very impressed with both Ami’s horses and her methods of raising them. She aims for the best in both conformation and personality, which is a common goal between her and Ledge End. We will definitely be going to visit her again sometime soon! Thank you to Ami and her horses for the wonderful experience.


We’ve had our Facebook page up and running for a number of months now, and we’ve decided it’s time to give you, our readers/followers/clients etc., an inside look into our operations and lifestyle at Ledge End Acres.

2012-12-17 18.08.52

Our little farm is home to two dogs, four cats, and a big herd of horses! Caring for all these wonderful creatures is quite the feat, but is handled exceptionally well by my mother, Bev. Although she’s the full-time resident at Ledge End, I manage the digital end of things from my apartment on the west coast. Of course I love to help with the practical end of things too, on long weekends, and whenever else I can take myself away from my busy schedule.

We have raised Morgans for 12 years and bred them for 5; recently we’ve started introducing Andalusian blood into our program to begin our venture into Iberian Warmbloods. We take pride in starting our young horses off right using natural horsemanship techniques. Our babies are handled from day one, and develop such a trust in humans that when it comes time to train them, it is very natural for them to pick up what we ask of them. Our goal is to produce quality horses with good minds that love to interact with people, are patient and easygoing, and are willing and eager to learn.


(Photo credit: Tim Cardinal)

I’m introducing this blog so that you can see past the formal front of our websites and advertising – seeing the inside story of what we do at Ledge End is very important to us, so that you can see how much fun having horses should be! I’ll be posting about intriguing activities that we do with our horses, interesting “ah-ha!” moments we’ve had (or our horses have had!), and reviews of other articles regarding training and other horsey “stuff” in general. I really hope to show you some insight on our training theories and help you to see clearly into the horse’s psychology.

We highly encourage comments, feedback, or any other communication you’d like to provide to us. We have email and Facebook icons in the bottom right corner of our blog page, or you can visit the “Contact” section for our phone number and other contact info. Our full website is under construction and is coming soon!

Please note that each of these communication mediums should be used with appropriate discretion. If you have concerns or criticisms, PLEASE use email or Facebook Personal Messaging to emphasize those concerns to us. We would love to address your concerns, but third party readers do not necessarily want to read heated disagreements!

Questions, positive feedback, or mere reflections on the related article are more than welcome in our comment section. You can see more about our comment policy on the policies page.

Thanks for reading – I’m looking forward to talking horses with you!