Sugaree Ranch

By Zoe Sandall Kupec
Sugaree Ranch of Horsemanship

You start training your horse the second you walk in to the pasture with them. Every tiny moment is so important to them. Everything from the way you approach, halter or ask them to take or release the bit can change the way your horse thinks about you. When you work with your horse next think about the small moments, the opportunities to make more sense to them. When you put the halter on, do you crunch the crown over the soft cartilage of their ears? Or do you bring the crown of the halter over their poll to tie it?

When you bridle do you crush their ears as they fold back under the bridle and flip spring forward as they pop through? Or do you lift the bridle and gently guide their ears forward as to not bend the sensitive cartilage?



Bridling Pax.  PC: Jenn Laurich, JLL Photography

Think about all of these tiny moments when your horse may not take the bit right away, or wont relax at the poll to bridle or halter.

This is just a small piece of the puzzle, but it’s a place to start!

By Zoe Sandall Kupec
Sugaree Ranch

"Artistic Equitation"
PC: JC Hyatt Photography

Circles: Thinking outside the box. 

It's pretty common for us to think about a circle in reining, dressage or even the trail patterns and imagine a perfectly round mark in the sand, even on all sides and no flat corners; but what I challenge myself to do is to get my HORSE to find a circle. While working in circles are very easy to over-do, when done correctly and in moderation depending on the horse, they are a great tool to see where your horses mind is as well as how soft they are between your legs and reins. Coming of the rail creates a circumstance where the horse can no longer lean against the fence, it will become immediately apparent where you and your horses weak spots are. When I'm thinking about circles I don't pick a spot and hold my horse in a circle; in fact I do the opposite.


circle 3

I feel for spots where my horses shoulders are leaning in or out, where their hind end might be drifting off, maybe they are showing you where they are a little "barn sour" or "buddy sour". In our arena there are horses on one side and the barn on the other, leaving room for the horse to want to drift and lean out of either end of the circle. My job is to be aware of those spots, and either use it to my advantage or make those spots more un-comfortable for my horse. As subtle as it might be, it will become clear as your circle becomes flat or oblong leaving sharp corners. This contributes to catching the correct leads, using the whole corners of the arena, having correct bend in both directions and helping you and your horse have the best balance possible without running down hill or falling side to side. 

circle 1

I set up my horses shoulders, not by holding them up with either leg and/or rein, but by offering them a new place to balance their body and let them go, it's their job to hold them-self there. If they start to drift, I let them make the mistake before I fix it; once they feel back to my legs and reins and become balanced I immediately release all pressure. I start this at the walk and as it gets more consistent I move to the jog and eventually lope. 

circle 2

My goal is to get the horse soft with their whole body (and mine) working in unison. The whole horse mentally and physically is going in the same direction, equally balanced left and right as they are forward and back.