Ellen Kealey Horsemanship

Introducing an understanding, observant and thoughtful approach to teaching and horsemanship.

Implementing an understanding, observant, and thoughtful approach to teaching and horsemanship.

As fun as it is to have baby goats at our stable, they are also a great training tool for the horses. A horse can live with many distractions on their own, however when a human comes into the picture things can look quite different. I was talking with a friend recently about the concept of taking away a horses ability to navigate something on his own.

If you were to turn a horse loose and have them sort through the distractions, they may be a little worried, but then ultimately they figure things out and develop coping strategies on their own or with the comfort of another horse. This brings up the discussion of why some horses will get very upset when you add distractions to the environment, and then tell them how they are supposed to handle themselves, by putting pressure on them and asking them to do things.

This is why getting a horse feeling OK, and not just responding to pressure is so fundamental in the training. It takes a lot of time and consistency to prove to a horse that there is a sweet spot with us, and that we will do our best to keep him from having to save himself.

Photo: Houston is getting an up close view of the goat. He was very interested! #horsetraining #horsemanship #babygoatsofinstagram #truenorthranchmn #trailriding

Trail riding requires a different level of focus and okay-ness from the inside of a horse. This becomes especially important when you ask them to go out alone while staying focused. I often get asked questions during lessons about how often a person should interrupt a horse to keep their mind focused on the trail.

My response always depends on the circumstance, as well as the relationship between horse and rider. Generally speaking, a horse who feels pretty good while being interrupted should be ridden for longer periods with subtle conversation. On the contrary, a horse who is carrying a lot of worry shouldn’t be ridden very far without being asked multiple questions.The trail ride may not last very long, as the rider will be responsible for emptying the horses cup of worry before expecting the horse to go very far.

People often struggle with this ongoing judgement call. Some riders get too picky, while others let the horse get into trouble when it’s too late to ask the horse to check in. Over time, the process becomes easier and requires less from the rider.

Photo: Bravo is a Gypsy Vanner who has strong ideas, and carries some worry about riding out alone. He has the ability to brace strongly with his neck when he gets a strong idea or a fright. The first few rides out of the arena with Bravo consisted of constant questions to keep him focused, and to keep his anxiety to a minimum before moving onto the next thing.

One of the first things that I teach a horse is how to follow a feel to shift his weight back with good timing and relaxation. The ability to interrupt a horses forward thought plays into everything we ask of them.

During one of my lessons this week, I was breaking things down step by step, asking my client to demonstrate how she presents pressure to her horse, and modifying it to have better clarity and timing. We worked on getting her horse to not just get away from pressure, but to think, check in and follow a feel.

Starting with teaching a horse how to follow a feel into a soft back up was the key for being able to easily interrupt her thought during other questions. People often struggle in helping a horse to shift their weight back, which precedes the shoulder stepping right or left onto the circle, which then leads to the horse taking a proper bend on the line. People often teach their horse to plow forward and get the job done, while remaining checked out on the circle.

Connecting the pieces of being able to interrupt a horses forward thought during various questions (front end yields, hind end yields, side passing etc) changes an “exercise” to a more focused and intentional conversation. These principles on the ground aid in preparation for the education under saddle. Asking questions that may seem insignificant at the time play a huge role in a horses understanding of pressure.

Photo: Chester is an OTTB who sometimes questions his ability to give to the reins. Helping him to stop with good timing and shift his weight back has helped his ability to stay checked in through transitions and finer movements under saddle. #horsemanship #thoughtfulhorsemanship #ottb #minnesotahorses #horsetrainer

Sending a horse out on a feel serves a multitude of purposes. In training it is the basis of ongoing communication on the ground between horse and human, which allows us to check in with their thoughts.

The way a horse positions his body, as well as how softly and responsively he changes his idea from one thing to another provides information about what areas need improvement. The concept of working on the ground before the ridden work, is the ability to gain a higher level of attentiveness so that a horse can do the things we ask of them with comfort.

In this photo, I am asking Shark to carry a proper bend around me on the circle. When a horse has ideas to be else where, or worry in regards to pressure, they will often walk around with a counter bend. In asking Shark to step his hindquarters over on the circle, I am not only encouraging him to carry a bend to the inside, but I am also checking in with his focus. Having the ability to ask questions such as leg yields out onto a larger circle, or small adjustments that encourage balance and rhythm, helps a horse to mentally and physically engage in the work.

I had a great time keeping the attention of this smart little Mustang pony in California last week. She came from a rescue quick to defend herself and disconnect from people. Her owner has done a fantastic job starting her, and building her confidence on the ground and under saddle. Even after some time off, Taz did great with some liberty training and a couple of rides.

The work moving forward will entail changing this up to keep her mind engaged in the work. I look forward to seeing her progress. The 14 hand and under club is too much fun. #horsemanship #mustanghorse #mustangpony #horsetraining #ponyclubproud #libertytraining

Huey had his second ride outside today. It’s a great feeling when a horse feels relaxed enough to stay connected outside of the arena. When I ride a horse for the first few times outside, I like to keep them interested in taking me somewhere while still staying with me. I consider it a success when the horse rides the same or better outside as they do in the confined arena space. #horsetraining #horsemanship #coltstarting #bayroan #aqha

Being able to interrupt a horse going in and out of spaces is something that can highlight a horses habitual forward push and leaving patterns. Not only is it an enclosed space, where there are distractions on both sides, but going in and out of gates, stalls, arena doors etc is something that we do frequently as a routine. Because we set it up this way, it can create issues if we try to interrupt them halfway through and ask them to stand, or take one step at a time without rushing.

In asking these questions, we get to see how much a horse is staying tuned in, as well as how he feels about trusting us to guide him through obstacles.

Bravo is a young Gypsy Vanner who has previously struggled to stay present on the ground. When he gets an idea, he can sometimes be hard to interrupt. With a horse like Bravo it is easy to miss what he is thinking, as he often appears to be calm on the outside, while still making plans to be elsewhere. The resistance or softness in his response to pressure tells me a lot about where his focus is, and how much it will take for me to change his plans. Firming up when it doesn’t seem like a big push has been key in making things clear for him.

Strong thoughts often turn into choices that are hard to interrupt. It is important to question the subtleties that happen before a horse disconnects. Getting a horse more responsive and engaged keeps them from leaving in bigger ways in different environments. Working on this overtime is what makes a change for the big picture in regards to softness and connection on the ground and under saddle. #gypsyvanner #gypsyhorse #horse #horsetraining #horsemanship #groundwork

Observance and awareness are two of the most important qualities to have and to improve upon when working with horses. It is often that we are unaware of what a horse is telling us mentally and physically. When we are learning to ride, we are often blind to what is actually happening in the mind and body underneath of us. We persist through our agendas, and perceive any behavioral symptoms or resistance from the horse as acting out against us.

As we continue in the relationship with our horse, there often comes a point where our horses behavioral symptoms show up in a way that demand our attention. Unfortunately people often get hurt or fall off, which causes them to become fearful during this process.

I wish that more riders would question the cause of their horses tension or behavior and receive guidance in helping their horse to relax and understand the requests we put them through. Experiencing an undesirable event or behavior can turn into one of the best learning opportunities. It teaches people to become more aware of how their horse is feeling at any given moment. However, what it hinders, is their ability to work through their now hypersensitivity and reluctance to push the boundaries with their horse. With proper guidance and learning to feel the different levels of tension in the training process, it becomes possible to form a new level of understanding between horse and rider. It is a constant search to find the right balance of sensitivity with confidence in being able to help your horse to the next step.

#horsetraining #horsemanship #equestrian #riding

Huey had his fifth ride under saddle today. Things really clicked for him after a few sessions of getting on and off to help him stay relaxed while searching for the correct response.

Getting a horses focus to shift with a rein, without movement will pay off when you ask him to take an interest and go somewhere on his back. Getting this solid on the ground and in the side pull helped him to flow from one thing to another without trouble. At the end of the ride, when I asked him to move out at the walk, he offered his first trot under saddle. It is amazing what can happen when you ask a horse a question, and it becomes his idea to respond. #horses #horsemanship #aqha #bayroan #horsetraining #buckarooleatherproducts

I often ask my students questions during instruction to keep them thinking and engaged in the learning process. A common question I may ask as they are working their horse on the ground or under saddle is, how do you know that your horse is checked in with you? The response I often get to this question is, “Well, his ears are back so he must be listening.”

I can recall being told countless times that if a horses ears are back while riding, then that alone is an indication that they are listening to you. In my experience riding and training horses, the best way to see if a horse is checking in is to ask a question by applying pressure and feeling/seeing the sort of response you get. Generally speaking if the horse is ready, and staying tuned in then he will be able to let go of his other interests to answer the question softly and responsively.

While the ears may be an indication of many things, and are important to observe, it is crucial that we train a horses mind instead of his body parts. While everything should be observed during the process of training, it is important to see the big picture of how a horse feels and responds in the moment. #horses #horsemanship #horsetraining #horsetrainingtips #minnesota#equestrian #itsthethoughtthatcounts

Riding outdoors is an important part of a horses education under saddle. When things are going well in the arena, it becomes important to change environments to see the horse you really have without the security of enclosed spaces.

When people begin to ride their horses outside, it is common to hear that the horse is spooky, or always wanting to push through the aids.

Whenever a horse struggles to follow a feel softly and responsively, it suggests that there is trouble. Often times it indicates that the horse is mentally disconnecting or carries worry/discomfort in regards to the ridden work.

Fancy, the TWH is a good example of a horse who doesn’t get troubled by much in her environment, however carries tension and worry under saddle. This has previously been the cause of a constant forward push that was hard to interrupt. Because she was always leaving, and rushing forward it was necessary to take a different approach with her training. Teaching her to bend and soften to the reins at a walk has changed how she feels, as well as improving the correctness of her gaits and outdoor riding.

Teaching a horse how to soften physically and emotionally to the reins adds clarity to the training and progresses the refinement of the aids. Yesterday I was able to go for a relaxed trail ride at a walk, without her trying to carry tension and pace the whole time. This is the result of what consistent, good work can do for a horse. #horsemanship #tennesseewalker #horsetraining #strawberryroan #gaitedhorse #groundwork

NEWS ALERT: My website has been updated and improved! A huge thanks to all of my clients for keeping me busy, and allowing me to guide you in your horsemanship and horse training endeavors. I look forward to a busy spring and summer of training and teaching.

I had a fantastic ride out on Lola the Morgan/Percheron cross during her training session today. She is going to make someone a fantastic all around prospect and trail horse! #horsemanship #trailhorse #dressageprospect #percheronmorgancross #greymare #buckarooleatherproducts


Now accepting Cattle 😂

Nothing like a bit of friendly competition 😍❤️

(Aston, le taureau)

The winner of the caption contest is Hanna East. “If you close your eyes you can’t see us.” Contact me directly to claim your T-shirt! 👚
#horsemanship #groundwork #horselove

Caption this photo of Shark and Lola for a chance to win a v-neck Ellen Kealey Horsemanship T-shirt! Comment your caption below and share the post for an extra entry!

A number of horses come to me with a hardness when asked to move forward. It often comes from a lack of knowing how to stay with a rhythm under saddle, or a feel on the ground. When a horse feels troubled about doing something, it is natural for them to either display resistance, or disconnect by fleeing at various speeds.

One of the main emphasizes of my training, is to help a horse stay with me during the work. Getting moments that feel connected and soft are what gets built upon and searched for during varying aspects of the training.

Shark is a young gelding who has had some forceful training in his past. As a result, he gets stuck and becomes uneasy with pressure. He leans toward feeling like he could get bothered before choosing to move forward or change his thought. Creating a sweet spot in the forward motion has been tricky. I am working through allowing him to move out with the feel of my seat, while still being able to interrupt him without him slamming on the breaks and quitting.

Now that he moves out freely and with me on the ground, I have found it useful to get on and off during our sessions. This allows for incremental changes, as well as time for him to process and understand what is being asked of him. The forward motion and softness under saddle continues to improve, as he feels more confident that life with humans doesn’t always coincide with confusion and ill feelings. #horsemanship #minnesota #equestrian #quarterhorse #buckarooleatherproducts #softness #mccallsaddle #groundwork #progress

Fancy is a Tennessee Walking Horse, who was given a basic start under saddle in her early years. She was ridden in a heavily shanked bit, and was expected to move rapidly down the trails with constant pressure. Due to her good nature, and smooth gaits, she was an adequate trail horse for her previous owners.

She has since spent some time with me this fall, and winter getting a restart on the ground and under saddle. Teaching her to softly follow a feel, instead of pushing through pressure has been a habitual understanding for her. Interrupting her forward “leaving” tendencies has been the most ongoing part of her progress.

She is now at a spot, where she is able to stay with the feel of my seat and reins instead bracing to rush through the pressure at her own pace. I will be working to refine her understanding of the reins, and my legs as a directional aid.

It was really fun to have a nice easy ride back to her paddock in the snow on a loose rein. When she first came to me, it was a constant job to keep her focus and forward push in check, especially outside of the arena. #horsemanship #tennesseewalker #strawberryroan #gaitedhorse #winterwonderland #equestrian #minnesota #winterriding #buckarooleatherproducts

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