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CREATING CONFIDENCE- The Practical Side of Natural Horsemanship

By Christa Miremadi

Develop more confidence in your horsemanship… with a few practical tips!

How is it that most of the trainers and clinicians out there can make horsemanship look so easy?  Why is it that re-enacting some of the apparently simple exercises is never quite as simple as it looks?  How can you develop the easy-going, quiet, confidence of the pros?

If you’ve ever asked yourself (or anyone else) any of those questions, I have a tip for you.  This could very well be the most important tip you could get and if you take it seriously, I guarantee you, you won’t just come across with more confidence, you’ll be more confident!

Get to know your gear!!

And I mean really get to know it.  Your lead rope, your halter, your carrot stick, whatever it is you use, get to know it like it’s part of you.

There are very specific ways to use your equipment and if used improperly, anything is capable of hurting your horse.  Rope halters have a specific way to tie, flat web halters have a specific way to fit, and lead ropes should not be wrapped around your hands, legs, or waist… They should also be kept off the ground where they can tangle around your horse’s legs.  There are so many things that one needs to keep in mind while working with a horse regarding their body language, technique, application… The last thing we tend to think about as being important to learn is how to correctly use a lead rope. However, it is likely one of the most important things to know.  After all, our goal while working with our horses should be to become and remain a reliable leader.  How can we expect our horses to look to us with confidence if we are fumbling with our ropes, tripping on them or getting caught up in them.  Here is one way you can develop the skill and confidence with your gear to allow your focus to remain where it should — on your horse and not on untangling your lead rope or accidentally catching your horse while they are trying to perform a task you’ve asked them too.

Find yourself a warm, dry corner of the barn, bring your 22′ lead line, your 14′ lead line, your 10′ lead line, your lunge whip, your carrot stick… whatever it is you use most with your horse and really get to know it.  My students use 14′ and 22′ leads mostly so I will discuss those, but really, it doesn’t make a difference what you use, as long as you get to know it. 

First, be aware that letting your gear lie on the ground, get wrapped around you or dragged through the mud is just plain… well, it’s not good horsemanship.  That kind of disorganization also poses quite a lot of danger to both you and your horse.  Remember, nylon burns far worse than cotton so use extra caution when working with nylon or marine rope.  If you have a conversation with any 9-fingered roper, they will tell you to respect your rope and learn to use it properly.

Take the time it takes to get to know how your ropes work, how heavy they are, how to spin them properly so as not to accidentally hit yourself or your horse (or miss if you needed to make contact), and how to quickly release slack to allow your horse to perform the desired manoeuvre.  Nothing is more frustrating than realizing that the reason your horse is not moving out into a circle as you’ve asked is because you’re also asking it not to!

One thing you may find helpful is to clip the horse’s end of the rope to something or attach your halter around the top rail of a fence so that you can practice as though you are attached to your horse.

Points to remember:

  • Practice gathering up the slack in order to keep your rope off the ground or draw your horse in. (Remember, when looping your rope into your hand, make large, organized, uniform coils that lie without twists.)


  • Practice tossing rope out and coiling it up.


  • Practice striking the same place with the end of your rope. (You may be surprised by your lack of aim!  I know I was at first.)


  • Practice dropping the horse’s end, one coil at a time. (This allows your horse to move off freely when asked.)


  • Practice with different lengths of rope.


Remember, if you look like you know what you’re doing, your horse will be a little more likely to give you a chance.  If you feel like you know what you’re doing, you’re all that more likely to give yourself a chance and your horse will feel that too. But most of all, if you are not being distracted by the equipment in your hands, you can place your attention and focus where it should be, on your horse.

Have fun, be safe and if you’re able to turn your horse out where you’re practicing, it may be good for them to watch you play with your ropes and they may become curious about what you’re doing even if they have previously been fearful of your tools.  You know your horse best so please don’t do something that will cause them to be stressed but if you think they would enjoy some free time with you, include them in your practice.

To find out more about  Horsemanship from the Heart clinics and/or training progrmas:  Go to www.horsemanshipfromtheheart.comnatural horsemanship

Christa Miremadi does not like to refer to herself as a trainer.  Christa prefers to think of what she does as teaching the horse how to learn. Putting a strong focus on the horse truly learning to understand what is expected of them, Christa sets up each horse that she works with to become a working partner.  She not only respects, but honors the horse’s opinion and ability to think, feel and even disagree.  Each and every response from a horse is valuable feedback and Christa uses this feedback as information.  Rather than working towards eliminating unwanted responses and behaviors, she listens to what these responses and behaviors are telling her and works with the horse to create more effective communication, clarifying the areas of confusion and allowing the horse to replace the undesirable behavior and responses with more mutually beneficial ones.

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