What percentage of ‘failures’ in horses do you get, or do you research their bloodline and background and pretty much know beforehand if the horse will train well?

“Stacy, What percentage of ‘failures’ in horses do you get, or do you research their bloodline and background and pretty much know beforehand if the horse will train well? I love watching your videos!”

Interesting question! The answer to the question really depends on how the words ‘success’, ‘failure’ and ‘goals’ are defined.

Newt likes laying down on the job.

Newt likes laying down on the job.

With my own personal horses I have the freedom to make an educated guess about what the horse will likely excel at…but if it doesn’t work I can change the goal. An example of this would be a horse I bought a couple of years ago as a ‘project’. My main goal was to rebuild his foundation so he could be a solid citizen. Along the way I trained him to be a reiner. He was good at it…but he was sold as a roping horse. I didn’t consider his career change to be a failure…it wasn’t my main goal. I don’t know if you ever watched the cartoon Lilo and Stitch but the main character, Lilo, always said she was looking for the creatures ‘one true home’…that is how I look at my horses.

I think your question was probably more ‘sport’ specific, so I will answer it that way also.

Many of the horses that I ride have been ‘created’ because my husband Jesse has recommend certain mares be bred to certain stallions. Jesse has ‘created’; Whizards Baby Doll (Roxy), Can Can Vaquero (2011 Freestyle Champion), SV Peppy Whiz (Rookie of the Year Horse) and other horses that have won over $100,000 in combined earnings. Jesse ‘created’ Jac also. Jesse was trying to create horses that would be successful in the reining pen. If we define “success” as horses who earned money in the reining pen then with his knowledge he has had about a 75% success rate. The rate is lower that maybe it could have been because some horses were sold to people who didn’t rein with them, they showed in cutting or barrels or trail rode. They weren’t ‘reining’ money earners…but they were still nice horses….were they a success or a failure?

One of the reasons that training for the public can be a challenge is because of how these words are defined. I have the freedom with my own personal horses to ‘go with the flow’ and know that success is having a happy well trained horse that will be enjoyed by someone. That is the reason why I can enjoy all horses…because my ‘success’ isn’t defined by the show pen.


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Stacy’s Video Diary Jac-Episode 32-Using horse shows and trail rides as training.

The goal for Jac’s first horse show wasn’t to win a prize, the goal was to use the whole experience as a learning and training session.

The atmosphere is a lot of the training; many horses around, warm up pen, bathing, riding, preparing, walking into the pen alone, odd hours, etc.

Gathering information is key to predicting how a horse will handle future experiences. By making the first several trips to shows very low pressure the horse is more likely to have a positive experience.

Jac’s first class was a green horse class and the goal was to do the maneuvers correct with little or no degree of difficulty. Unfortunately, Jac broke gait (went from a lope to a trot) when slowing down from the large fast circle to the small slow circle. In the video I explain, “I’m going to blame that on me…I wasn’t helping him or guarding him…I was using the class to gather information. Had this been a show I was concerned about I would have helped him. Instead I learned Jac was very relaxed.”

The learning that takes place at a show is not only the horse. The rider also learns how to better prepare and show the horse.

I answer a question about my goals when taking a horse to a show or a trail ride for the first time; what types of things do you do to ensure a good experience for the horse.

I explain that many people ride their horses harder at a show or when they haul them somewhere than they do at home. When this happens the horse learns to expect hard work when they are hauled.

I ride my horses harder at home than I do at the shows so that the horse learns that traveling doesn’t require more work.


Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video


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“You all laugh because I am different. I laugh because you are all the same.”

When I saw this quote I thought about photographing a mini with horses. Although that would have worked, I felt lead to have the photograph include people. You all laugh because I am different. I laugh because you are all the same.

Many times it is uncomfortable to feel ‘different’ when in reality we are all unique…like it or not.

Sometimes being ‘different’ is a choice….like driving a mini to school to pick up your child in the car-line.

Other times being different is not wearing the ‘right’ clothes or saying the ‘right’ things when you are with people.


The more that I looked at the quote the more I realized that two words in it were problematic; ‘different’ and ‘laugh’.

In car line this day people were laughing…but it was good laughter, they were enjoying the differences.

Other times laughter is hurtful, aimed to make people feel unworthy.


I almost threw the whole photo and quote out by the time I was done analyzing it. Then I thought…why not explain my issues with it and enjoy reading your responses:)


Posted by on April 15, 2014 in quote


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What does it mean when a horse ‘drops’ his shoulder?

I remember the confusion I felt when I first heard someone say that a horse was ‘dropping his shoulder.’

What does a horse dropping his shoulder mean?

What does a horse dropping his shoulder mean?

An example of a horse ‘dropping his shoulder’ would be a horse traveling to the left (counter clockwise) in a circle or around an arena. As the horse travels this path the rider feels them ‘dropping their shoulder’ into the direction of travel (left in this example) which causes the horse to track to the inside of where the rider desires to be. If left unfixed the horse will often travel more and more to the left.

To compensate for this ‘dropping’ the rider is often instructed to use the inside leg or rein or both to ‘hold’ the horse up. In this example the rider will often apply pressure with the left leg and/or the left rein to push the shoulder back out (to the right).

I dislike the phrase ‘dropping its shoulder’ because generally the more the rider takes the responsibility of ‘holding up’ the shoulder…the more it allows the horse to lean into the pressure. Much like a dog pulling on a leash as it is led, part of the problem lies in the handler holding pressure and allowing the dog to pull.

I would rather replace the term ‘dropping the shoulder’ with ‘falling in’ or simply turning; because if the rider didn’t ‘hold up the shoulder’ the horse would turn.

Fixing a horse that is turning too soon often seems easier to understand than fixing one that is ‘dropping his shoulder’….although it could be argued that they are the same thing. This may seem like a small difference in phrasing but when coaching I have often found that it is the key to getting the rider to find a true ‘fix’ for the problem.

In the example above, if the rider didn’t use the left leg or rein to ‘hold the horse up’ the horse would simply turn to the left. The horse isn’t dropping something, he is turning early. The easiest way to prove this is to NOT hold up the shoulder. The rider will be pleasantly surprised to find that they are still upright….nothing dropped…but they will also find that the horse has turned earlier or sharper than the rider wanted.

There are many reasons why a horse will ‘drop his shoulder’ or ‘fall in’ or turn early; here are a few:

  • anticipation-the horse traveling to the left thinks ‘the last 200 times we got to the corner we turned left…I bet we are going to turn left…lets go ahead and turn left now’
  • rider leaning-the rider anticipates the turn and leans, subtly cueing the horse to turn
  • difficult body frame to hold- many events favor horses who carry an animated body position where the horses body frame carries a curve. This is more difficult than carrying the body straight and some horses while trying to move straighter will turn.
  • bracing against the rider-at some point the horse either anticipated the turn or the rider anticipate the turn and then slowly over time the horse and rider have become unbalanced…the rider feeling the need to ‘hold’ and the horse believing it is O.K. to lean

Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

The subtle difference of viewing this issues from another angle may lead you to solve your problem.


Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Training


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Amazing Grace: Bridleless Freestyle with Emmie Fisher and Louie

To have a student that excels is a pleasure….

About nine years ago Emmie Fisher wanted to learn about reining and a friend suggested that she try riding with Jesse and Stacy Westfall. Emmie began hauling her horse for lessons and was hooked. Emmie worked hard and when there was an opportunity to work for the Westfall’s for a short time she also did that.

Emmie’s hard work and dedication was put to the test when she decided to train her two year old horse herself. Some horses are easy and others are more challenging…and Louie was a challenge. But again Emmie worked hard.

Emmie was now married to Mike, worked full time and lived over an hour from the Westfall’s but she didn’t let that stand in her way. Emmie hauled in regularly taking lessons from Jesse as well as attending shows with him. She kept Louie at home most of the time where she trained him in her pasture as she had no riding arena. When Louie progressed enough Emmie and Mike budgeted and boarded Louie at a barn with an arena. And Emmie worked hard.

To say that we, Jesse and Stacy, are proud of what Emmie has accomplished with Louie would be an understatement. In April 2012 Emmie rode with Stacy at the Equine Affaire during a freestyle demo with the goal of showing that October at the All American Quarter Horse Congress Freestyle….with a bridle. Emmie and Louie placed fifth.

In 2011 Emmie started asking the Westfall’s if she was crazy for considering bridleless freestyle reining and they said not at all. In 2013 Emmie showed at the Congress Freestyle again…this time BRIDLELESS this time placing third.

One of Emmie’s life time goals has been to show at the Kentucky Horse park, a place she visited as a child and has always loved. In just a few short weeks Emmie will have her chance as she has entered Louie in the Kentucky Reining Cup Freestyle Reining, April 26, 2014, held in conjunction with the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

……but the story gets better.

To prepare for the Rolex 2014 Emmie once again rode with Stacy at the Equine Affaire. Stacy could offer Emmie practice in front of a crowd which was good but what Emmie really wanted was to practice with a spotlight.

That is when God opened the door.

Unfortunately the reiner scheduled to perform in the Fantasia couldn’t perform. Equine Affaire approached Stacy and asked her if she knew anyone who could fill in….the answer was yes!

Emmie got her chance to practice with a spotlight not once, not twice but four times…three of them with thousands of people cheering. I think her Facebook post after the first performance summarizes it best:

“19 years ago a lady from church took a horse crazy little girl to see Fantasia at the Equine Affaire. Tonight that horse crazy girl rode her own horse in Fantasia. #ThankYouJesus #DreamsDOComeTrue #LouisIsMyBFF”

She is a non-pro who works full time at a vet clinic and has trained her own horse. Her husband Mike said after her last Fantasia performance, “No one would believe how hard Emmie has worked to reach this goal.”

Emmie worked hard, rode with Faith, and then worked even harder. She will tell you if you talk with her that if she can do it, you can do it. You can visit her on Facebook at The Redheaded Cowgirl.

We are all so proud of you Emmie!

And yes…this is the same “Louie” as Louie the blogging horse from Congress, lol



Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Video


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How many horses in a day do you typically train? How many hours per day do you usually devote to each horse?

“Hi Stacy. How many horses in a day do you typically train? How many hours per day do you usually devote to each horse? Flo B.”

Flo- Years ago my husband and I trained horses full time for a living. At that time we kept seventeen to twenty horses at our barn and had anywhere from one to three people that worked for us. Sometimes those people did maintenance, feeding and cleaning so that Jesse and I had more time to ride. At one point we had three young ladies working for us who fed, cleaned stalls and rode horses with us also.

We average an hour to an hour and a half per day when riding the horses. Sometimes it might be less if there is something especially good that happens and we want to reward them or if they are young but over the period of a year or two it still averages out.

Back when we trained full time at our peak Jesse and I rode ten a day but we had a girl who saddled, warmed them up and unsaddled.

Now I do more traveling and teaching at expos, etc. Traveling means that I can’t train regularly unless the horses can travel with me. I am currently riding two horses, Jac and Newt, and sometimes Popcorn…and the mini’s. Popcorn and the mini’s are more like a hobby, lol.

I still average around an hour to an hour and a half per day, per horse, five days per week. That is how it becomes possible to see that Roxy had over 1,000 hours of training when I rode her bareback and bridleless as a 5 year old. She entered training as a two year old and the show was at the end of her five year old year. That would be about 250 hours per year as a 2, 3, 4 and 5 year old.

The video below shows Jac with 120-125 hours of training….his hours are lower because he got sore in the summer and had time off

This video shows Roxy with about 1,000 hours of training.


Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Members Question, Training, Video


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Why don’t you use your legs when asking a horse to back up? What are your cues?

“Stacy- Just curious why you don’t use your legs when asking Jac to back up? I’ve always been taught to use my legs (whether it be just one leg or both legs) if I’m looking for them to move in any direction including backing up! :) - Krysti M.

Krysti- When I was growing up-I was taught the same thing!

Over the years I have added to my knowledge and now I have several cues for backing up. One of them is backing up while using my legs. I have others though.

In all of my training I find it useful to have more than one way to ask a horse to do something, several ways to back up; several ways to turn left, several ways to stop, etc.

The first method of backing up that I teach is using the reins only. To keep things simple I make ‘legs mean go forward’ and ‘rein pressure without legs means back up’.

Next I will use my reins and my legs both to ask for the back up…but I will use my legs in front of the cinch- tapping the shoulders- to ask them to back up. By using my legs in front of the cinch I am again trying to keep things clear. Legs behind the cinch mean forward…legs in front of the cinch means back up.

Eventually the legs in front of the cinch with rein pressure will lead to another cue which is legs only (no rein pressure) in front of the cinch means back up.

Next, on my very highly trained horses I will also teach them to ‘shift gears’ into reverse when I ‘release’ my legs and then apply pressure just behind the girth. I do this because I need a backup cue that I can use in the show pen…and I am not allowed to use my legs in front of the cinch when showing. I can also ‘steer’ the horse by using this method. This is the main cue I use in my bridleless riding; leg release with the idea that I can ask for the backup.

I believe that if a horse is taught to do something, for example back up, several different ways…that the training is that many times stronger. As I have at least three separate ways to back up, my back is likely three times stronger than someone who only has one way.

Two of my DVD’s cover this subject…Whoa: Teaching Your Horse to Stop and Bridleless Riding: How Does She Do That?

Check out Can Can Lena’s back up at the end of our 2003 Championship ride: Drag it to 3:20 if you just want to watch the back-up.


Posted by on April 11, 2014 in Members Question, Training, Video


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