Video: Horse that falls down to avoid being ridden.

“Stacy Westfall , Have you seen this video? What would you do to fix this?”-Ashley N.

No, I hadn’t seen this video until you posted it here. It was an interesting watch and I think I will answer your question in two parts.

First, if the horse is laying down to avoid being ridden he has learned that there is a reward for lying down. The simplest answer is to either prevent the behavior that leads up to the horse going down or to make it uncomfortable for the horse to stay down. Tapping persistently until the horse chooses to stand up would be enough to make him think about getting up.

My issue with the video is that it looks like this horse was trained to lay down on purpose. I have seen horses trained ‘accidentally’ to lie down. One example of this was when I was in college and I saw a horse get dizzy while learning to spin like a reiner. All was fine during the spin but when the rider said ‘whoa’ and the horse stopped he started wobbling, lost his balance and chose to lie down. It was slow motion and no one got hurt…in fact the girl got off and laughed. Everyone laughed. The horse got a nice break and eventually stood up. Apparently the break was long enough because the next time the girl asked him to spin he started to…but then chose to lie down. Again she laughed and didn’t make him get up. Within a couple of days he would lay down every time she asked him to spin…then she stopped laughing.

The key difference with that horse and the one in the video is that the one in this video doesn’t lie down smoothly like a horse in a pasture would. Horses choosing to lay down usually look like…well, horses choosing to lay down. This one is unnaturally stiff. He does get smoother on the second time but he also backs into it which is also unusual unless trained.

This one looks like it was trained to bow on two knees and then had its head pulled to the side. Notice how stiff the horse is when it collapse to the ground. When is the last time you saw a horse lay down like that on its own? If this horse had thought of this on his own, the odds are he would be smoother. Even if it is trained he will get smoother with practice.

I have trained several horses to lay down. The first few I taught to bow and then lie down and they all had this stiff look shown in the video. I didn’t like the look and the horses had trouble connecting what I wanted so I changed my methods. Now my horses draw their legs together and choose to lay down very smooth the way they do naturally.

Once down most horses do tend to lay very still, almost stiff, when on their sides. I have never tried sticking a carrot in their mouth to see what they would do…but I think I will be buying a carrot and giving it a try with Newt, lol.

Who knows, maybe I am wrong. Maybe this horse did just start doing this stiff fall on his own. Stranger things have happened. Horses are certainly smart enough to connect the dots if they find an easy way out of work.


1 Comment

Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Members Question, Thought provoking, Training, Video


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why does my horse paw while eating grain?

“Help!! I just got my mare a year ago, and from day one, whenever I feed her grain, she picks up her front foot. She isn’t aggressive in any way, shape, or form. Has anyone ever seen any type of behavior like this? Eating grain is the only time she does it. Thanks!!”-Kelly S.

When I watch horses eat their ‘natural’ food source, grass, it is easy to see that they have to work a little to eat it.  If you watch a horse eat grass they pull, tear or rip it up.

If you give a young horse hay or grass from your hand they gather it in their lips and pull like they are going to tear it from the ground. As they get more experience they often learn that this isn’t necessary, but it does tend to be their first response. I have even seen horses that pull apart round bales seeming to prefer to eat hay that requires them to pull on it over the loose stuff on the ground. Not all do this and some horses are content to eat the loose hay on the ground.

Low corner feeder discourages pawing while eating grain.

Low corner feeder discourages pawing while eating grain.

My theory is that the grain is easy for them to pick up but easy isn’t what they were designed for. Some horses that are picky eaters are ok with nibbling but others seem to struggle with feeling satisfied by the method of feeding. There have been entire books written about the the pros and cons of feeding grain so I will save that topic for another day.

If the grain feeder is raised the pawing is generally more animated with the leg being lifted higher. If the grain is fed on the ground the horse tends to spread it out…and then nibble around for it.

In our barn we built low corner feeders with a concrete base that was ground level and the boards were about knee height. This eliminated almost 100% of pawing in all the horses because it is more difficult to paw with their heads down and the board in the way. Occasionally a new horse would paw and bump their leg into the board but either the board or the difficulty of the position discouraged pawing and they stopped.

My horses have free choice hay and the minimum about of grain necessary. I use a ration balancing feed that doesn’t require a large amount which makes it easier to digest and they tend to eat it and then return to their hay.

We have also noticed that the horses that we have that would normally paw while eating alone in their stalls don’t tend to exhibit this as much when out in a group. They seem to know that they had better spend more time eating and less time playing if they want to get their fair share.

Try experimenting with some of the things listed above and let me know how it goes.

Have a suggestion or thought? Leave it below.




Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Members Question


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What horsey items would be on your ‘must have’ list if you had to reduce?

The newest twist to our crazy adventure is the three horse bumper pull trailer Jesse bought yesterday. The plan is to leave Ohio this week and head to Oklahoma City to visit the NRHA Reining Futurity and see Jac (yah!). Then we are headed on to New Mexico, Arizona and California. We will return to the Mid-West in March for appearances and to attend The Road to the Horse.

Today was a minor repeat of the packing process we went through last January and February when we were moving out of our house. I completely underestimated the amount of time it would take to move from our six horse trailer to the smaller one. About half way through our almost eight hour day of reducing and repacking I declared, “In a few years when we settle down we are going to be hoarders!” On some days (like today) it seems that life would be more simple if I didn’t have to calculate the weight, shape and necessity of every item we have with us. That’s the tough part. The easy part is that once we leave on this four month mini-adventure, house keeping and organization will be simple.

Some stuff was easy to leave behind but I had to laugh, we will be traveling this leg of our journey with only two horses…yet we packed four saddle pads (color options) and four sets of leg wraps (some with knee protection and some without). What is the bare minimum you would need if you had two horses traveling around with you? What horsey items would be on your ‘must have’ list if you had to reduce?

new (used) horse trailer

There is more in the front dressing room, it took us all day to sort through what to keep and what to leave behind until March.

P.S.- The good news is that each time we repack it gets easier. Still tiring, but I guess it is like many other things…the more you practice the better you get at it!

…I’m gonna be an expert…


Posted by on November 23, 2014 in Life


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

One step closer…

Well, it’s official…we just bought a 3 horse bumper pull horse trailer to pull behind our NEW and AMAZING motorhome.

Photos and video on their way… I really need to get my iPhone fixed…


Posted by on November 22, 2014 in Life


My strange but wonderful winter horseback memory.

Growing up in Maine I expected snow and even looked forward to it. When the snow was almost belly deep to our pony my brother and I would lead her up to our house and climb on her bareback…and basically bridleless. She did have a halter on but we unsnapped the lead rope to let her run back to the barn…with us riding her!

She followed the same path we had lead her on which made a 90 degree turn following the corner of our house. Our goal was to jump off into the snow as she made that turn…then we would catch her back and the barn, lead her back, and do it again. Yep, I had a strange childhood:)

Do you live in an area that experiences winter? Do you enjoy it?

How does it change your routine with your horse?
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.


Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Life


Tags: , , , , ,

Goal setting…even if you’re not sure how to measure the results.

A little over a year ago I set a goal for myself to blog every day for one year. That was a measurable goal. I also set the goal of having the #1 Horse Blog on the internet. Here is the interesting thing.

I had no idea how to measure if I had reached that goal. I’m not a tech person, I don’t know web analytics and I’d never seen a award given for the ‘best horse blog.’

But I’m not a stranger to setting goals that are difficult to measure. Sure, I can set out to ride my horse five days a week, that is a very measurable goal but often I want more. I want to have a good ‘relationship’ with my horse. How do I measure that? Should I give him a survey at the end of the year? If we have one bad day does it erase three good ones? In the end I have to accept that some goals are easier to measure than others.

This week I was surprised, and thrilled, to see the photo below pop up on my Facebook page. I know that HorseClicks isn’t trying to say that I’m the #1 Horse Blogger out there…but the post was still exciting for me to see. Maybe I did reach that goal. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe I will never know. But I’m still glad I set it because it helped point me in the direction I wanted to go.

Stacy Westfall #1 Horse Blogger?

Setting goals doesn’t always require knowing the end result.




Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Life


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jac Review: My horse walks circles around me while I am saddling, what should I do?

“Hi Stacy! I have a 17 year old mare that we bought last year. She is the sweetest mare I have ever known, however, she is a pain in the rear to saddle.
When we first bought her, her owners told us she was cinchy and showed us how they saddled her. They explained that after she had two foals, they tried to saddle her tied up and she flipped and went over backwards.
Her problem is that she can’t/won’t hold still. I have just been letting her walk around in circles around me. She used to seem a little tense, but I have done it enough times to notice that she isn’t scared or nervous at all, but it does seem unwise to me to tie her up and have the same thing happen again (I didn’t actually witness that).
So now I have a horse that takes forever to saddle because she can’ hold still. And I know I have reinforced this habit, I just don’t know how to break it. Help!”

There are several things that could be going on here. My best guess is that prior to having her two foals, your mares saddle training probably had ‘holes’ in it. I have had broodmares that were unridden for two or three years that were fine when they were saddled up again. I did lunge them and review groundwork for 20-30 minutes before throwing the saddle on, but flipping over backward should be considered an extreme reaction.

If the mare had any spots that had been skipped or things that had been overlooked, then time off, plus quick saddling, it could have resulted in the huge reaction. I would also guess that someone was ignoring the mares body language during this disastrous saddling as there were likely signs that were either missed or ignored. I agree with you that you should not tie her up. I am going to guess that she was tied during the flipping over which is also an indication that she was likely lacking in that area of training also.

With your description it seems like moving around is a habit. I have seen horses that were not taught to stand still…so they move. Until the mare is trained to stand she is likely to wander especially as she has been allowed to in the past.

If you go back and watch the Jac series you will find places that this mare is lacking. If you only watch the video where I am saddling Jac you will not see all of the parts that went into teaching him to stand still. Go back and watch the prior episodes and look specifically for places where I have him standing still. I don’t always point this out but you can see it if you are looking. For example, when I am teaching him to stand facing me while I whip around him with the stick and string…I am teaching him to stand still under pressure. When I am bouncing the ball around him and off his sides, I am also teaching him to stand still.

Go back and watch the first time that I bridle Jac in Episode 13. That episode talks about emotional and physical cycles which is also key in getting a horse to stand still. Even the later exercise of teaching a horse a ‘parking brake’ to stand still for mounting is still reinforcing the idea of a horse being trained to stand still.

I would suggest restarting this mare. Go back through all of the steps that were shown in the Jac series. If the mare is solid in her training then this shouldn’t take long but as you find the ‘holes’ in her training, celebrate that you are on your way to having a solid broke horse that stands still for saddling.

P.S.- I have a long standing disclaimer that you should always evaluate and look for physical symptoms of pain. You indicated that it appears to be more of a habit and I answered the question from that angle. I always recommend consulting vets, chiropractors, dentists, etc as horses often display pain or discomfort by showing signs ‘resistance’ in training. Always keep looking for pain as a possible source of the problem even while you are working on the training aspect.

*     *     *

The episode below is where I explain how to use physical and emotional cycles. They could also be considered physical work and physical rest cycles. This cycle is important because the hard work makes the standing still seem easy and desirable in comparison…which is why the horses begin to choose to stand still.

This episode is where I saddle Jac for the first time. Look closely at my body language, his body language and the use of work/rest cycles.




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,849 other followers