16x AMHA/APHA/PtHA World Champion - Lana Grieve

This blog is owned and copyrighted by Lana Grieve/Star Point Horsemanship. To request permission to use any editorial information, please contact starpointhorsemanship@hotmail.com 

The Journey to Horse Ownership

For several years, I've been asked this question. If I had to give a rank horse beginner advice on how to step into the horse industry, what would I tell them? I have never completely voiced my opinion on this, until now. From being a horse crazy 5 year old girl from a non-horse owning family to a DYI World Champion and Professional Equine Coach 23 years later, I will be the first to tell you it wasn't easy. In fact, it was almost impossible. But passion has a way of pushing you above and beyond the unknown challenges in front of you.

1. Do as much research as possible and stay as independent as possible. If you are wanting to step into horse ownership or taking lessons, you certainly need to connect with knowledgeable horsemen, but take your time and extensively research them first. Don't rush into any type of long term commitment or let anyone (even friends) influence you into a sitaution. If a situation is right for you, it will naturally fall into place, be comfortable and most importantly, fun and educational all at once.

2. If you are unsure of what type of riding or horse activity you want to be involved in, keep your options open. Take lessons from a few instructors and try different methods on for size. Stick with whatever feels right to you, and if something down the line doesn't make you feel comfortable or safe for you or your horse, don't be afraid to change your situation.

3. Watch how trainers/instructors treat their existing clients and horses. Do they treat them with respect? Do they give equal attention to the weekly lesson client versus the full-time training client with a more expensive horse? Pay attention to how their established relationships run. This will tell you everything about who they are.

4. If a horse is "too good to be true" or "an amazing price," it is likely a RED FLAG. Unfortunately, horses are misrepresented constantly. Be catious about signing anyone else's Sale Contracts. Don't sign anything accepting "as is" condition of a horse unless you are fully prepared to take a tremendous loss. A resource I have used for years is Equine Legal Solutions. They have standard contracts available for purchase to protect your rights and make the transaction fair to both parties.

5. Be ready to spend money. There isn't a way to get into horses cheaply. You will always exceed your desired budget, especially when purchasing your first horse. Can you achieve horse ownership and your dreams on a tight budget? Yes! I've done this for years, but be prepared to invest more than you're expecting. This is why I stress taking lessons and doing extensive research first before you actually buy a horse. Have a plan, have a general knowledge base and take your time before you make the investment.

6. If you end up buying a horse that isn't the right match for you, don't be afraid to sell it. Horses aren't pets, they are 1,000 pound
animals that need the appropriate job for who they are. Owning a horse for it's entire life is a wonderful goal, but keeping the wrong horse for your skill level will greatly limit your progress and be
potentially dangerous for you. Like relationships between people, all horse/human relationships are different. Some work, some don't. If your personalities aren't well matched, it's okay to admit you made a mistake and move on. In the end, you will be more experienced and the horse will live the life it's meant to.

7. Just because you have done research or you know someone who is knowledgeable and accomplished with horses doesn't make you an expert. There is no end to horsemanship education. Just because you've found a trainer you admire doesn't mean there isn't room for more knowledge elsewhere. Keep an open mind, even if it's learning what not to do, you will be a better horse owner for it. Always be willing to watch, listen and learn. Be kind and respectful to others in the barn, even if they practice something entirely different or opposite from you.

8. Horse people are opinionated. It is rooted in their passion and what each individual stands behind. Without solid opinion, great horsemen wouldn't exist, but sadly, this level of passion quickly translates to arrogance when it doesn't need to. No matter where your horsemanship journey takes you, whether you want to trail ride, compete locally, or become a World Champion, remember to be humble, encouraging, respectful and kind. Just because someone enjoys their horsemanship differently from what you believe doesn't make them any lesser of a horseman. Just because someone can only afford local shows and events doesn't make them a 'nobody.' Championships and blue ribbons don't make a good horseman, gratitude and humility does. Be compassionate to your horse. Be someone's smile. Be someone's "congratulations" or "good job." In the end, you will be achieving far more than a blue ribbon will ever give you.

- Lana Grieve, Star Point Horsemanship

Jealously and Quality of Sportsmanship

It's a hot topic in the horse show industry. I've had clients/friends with kids ask me for a long time how to handle the social aspects of horse showing and how to prevent bullying. The sad reality is you can never fully prevent bullying or gossiping, but here's my best advice on how to handle this sensitive topic:

1. Social media. It can be a wonderful outlet to post progress and happy memories, but it can also be quite damaging if used negatively. In my opinion, when people choose social media as an outlet to mention someone in a negative light, directly or indirectly, that is the most common form of jealously. As a competitor, instead of fearing it, expect it to happen if you're making progress and doing well, especially if you choose to be active on social media. With that said, don't get wrapped up in commenting contests or toxic gossiping. Keep positivity as a baseline for your own social media pages.

2. Do what's right by you. You are always entitled to your own opinion, and you are the ONLY ONE who makes the decisions with your horse, period. Always keep an open mind when people share their advice and methods, but also never feel pressured into doing something with your horse you don't feel completely comfortable doing, no matter how helpful or experienced that person may be. If you decide against someone's advice and they take it personally, there's your answer about who they are. Even if you disagree with someone, always remain respectful and honor their wishes with their horse. This is the foundation of true friendship.

3. True friendships take time. While you want to build a support group, make your horse the priority over the social aspect of shows. If your energy is directed positively toward improving your horse and yourself, natural friendships will transpire from it. Never try to force fit. Keep it about your sportsmanship, your horse and let the rest evolve naturally.

4. Be kind. Even if someone has hurt you or tried to affect your experience, be genuinely gracious. The quote, "Kill em' with kindness" is one I live by. Say hello, represent your horse show/club/association with professionalism and remember what really matters - the relationship with your horse and your performances with the judges. The rest simply doesn't matter. Be you and be proud to be you. Always remain a humble winner and congratulatory when the day doesn't go as planned.

When training horses, there are two types of reaction - resistant reaction and exhausted reaction.

I use this guide to distinguish the difference. Once a horse has behaved well performing a certain exercise, then reverts back early (minutes) into the training session, that is resistant reaction. If your horse acts consistent and toward the end of the session begins to react, this is exhausted reaction. To minimize exhausted reaction, give your horse 14-30 lesson days before expecting them to be mentally conditioned to start asking for refinery in their exercises. It's not just a matter of physically getting it shape, it's equally important to condition a horse's mind so they don't become mentally exhausted. It's like a child on the first day of school. Start their lesson plans slowly and consistently and work your way up to longer, more advanced training sessions.

To begin Liberty training, you are going to have better success if you horse has a concept of Hindquarter Control, Backing, and Forequarter Control on both sides of his body. When you have adequate cueing established in these 3 exercises, your horse will understand the concept of drawing into you while also maintaining spacing respect, which is vital in Liberty training. By introducing Liberty too prematurely, it will undo your groundwork and Longe Line training because the horse will get mixed messages. If your horse is still learning the concept of groundwork respect, wait until your horse is proficient in it before introducing Liberty work. 

When is the best time to start your horse on the longe line? I get this question often. I recommend waiting until the horse is at least 10 months old, and preferably one year. If you aren't showing in competitive yearling longe line, then wait longer. If you introduce longe line too early, you're putting your horse's long term soundness at risk. Even if you've done groundwork and your weanling is mentally ready for longe line, it doesn't mean he is physically. Commonly, young horses will take to longe line and be well behaved if you've followed a groundwork program, but it is inevitable your horse will resist, push, pull and move frantically when you introduce the line and ask them to think. Because I'm a firm believer in keeping horses accountable for their behavior and guiding through resistance when needed, this is why I wait until the horse is developmentally ready to handle a 20-30 minute longe line session. Introducing longe line training with the mindset of, "I'll take it easy since the horse is young," results in teaching your horse to not think, listen or acknowledge you promptly. If your weanling or yearling is getting bored and ready for more in their training routine, start them over obstacles versus longe them. This continues to teach the horse to respond to your body while guiding them through their resistance more mildly.

When training horses, there is Foundational Training and Conditioning Training. It is vital to understand this difference to have your horse reach his full potential. Foundational Training must be completed before you try and advance to Conditioning. The line is very fine and hard to distinguish at times. As a general rule, once your horse is responding to your body movements alone with the knotted training halter, it is then I introduce the chain. Once I introduce the chain, it doesn't mean they are beginning Conditioning Training, it only means I've put in the hours to advance to the next step of lightness while cueing. True conditioning is the most challenging because sessions are much more fragile as you invest the hours with your horse. You'll feel this difference when your horse is in tune with you on this level, but you must find ways to continually keep their minds thinking beyond the norm, all while keeping their quality and capabilities in tact. This opens the door to Conditioning Training, which is simply cementing your permanent buttons all while teaching the horse to assist in guiding you through the pattern instead of you solely guiding him. When the day comes when you can trust your horse to help guide you 50/50 through a pattern, that's when you'll know you are Conditioning. - Lana Grieve, Star Point Horsemanship