This morning, my Yankee-Irish horsewhispering boyfriend read me something from one of Pete Ramey‘s books while we drank our Lyons tea (“Refresh and Revive!”).

Pete suggested that before trimming, it’s important to find a place for the horse to stand where he feels comfortable…and to find that place on the horse’s body that makes his lip stick out two inches when you scratch it.

Just another way of setting up your horse for success.

While I don’t put the horse’s pleasure before my own, I think a horse that’s set up for success performs best, which consequently makes for happier horses and riders.

If you want your horse to perform well under saddle, there are lots of things you can do to set him up for success, and that starts on the ground.  It starts with the mega issues like enough turnout, a balanced diet, regular veterinary care, and proper tack that fits properly.  Keep your eyes open and put your hands all over your horse whenever you can, so you can catch any health issues as soon as they appear.  Know your horse, and you’ll often get a sense when something isn’t right.

Then there’s under saddle.  There are three things that I think are most important when setting up your horse up for success:

1.  The clarity of your aids — which means the set of instructions your body gives your horse’s body.  While this can alter slightly as the horse’s training progresses, they should be distinct and distinctive and unvarying.

2.  Eliminating as much as possible what I call “the white noise” — the things we do with our bodies that we’re unconscious of, but which we ask the horse to filter out.

3.  Timing — applying our aids at a point when the horse can fulfill our request.  This means understanding where the feet are, and being aware of how we are applying our aids in terms of duration and strength.  It also means paying attention to our horse’s balance, and rebalancing (or half-halting).

What do you do to set your horse up for success?

And if you can’t make sense of what those two are talking about in the Lyons tea ad, there’s a translation, and more talk, here.