More signs of spring


playing in the sandbox with my tractor

playing in the sandbox with my tractor

The snow has melted, the arena has dried, and the manure has been picked up and spread on the pasture.  It’s time to begin physical conditioning of the horses before we move on to serious schooling.

spring cleaning

spring cleaning

It was warm enough to wash  all those saddle pads from the fall and hang them on the line.  (Note: my lawn is the new “pasture.”)



Structure Your Schooling Session

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, be creative as you read these coaching notes about how to structure the schooling session.  Find ways to relate these ideas to your non-riding goals.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.


book study

Part 4: “Coaching in Action” Chapter 12: “Structuring the Work Session”

P 181- 183  CHAPTER INTRO: Be aware of focus when riding to avoid disappointment or a sense of failure.  Riding without focus won’t provide a sense of fulfillment.  Using a narrow focus, (such a focusing on perfection) produces a “trying” state and a success/failure frame.  Over-focus, (from feeling rushed), prevents the horse and rider from tuning into each other.  Use these guidelines to structure a schooling and/or coaching session:

  • work with an articulated agenda, but stay open to unexpected opportunities to serve your larger goals.
  • stay focused on the process, (rather than details of what happened during the schooling session).  Focus on the process means defining how something happened, what contributed to it happening, and what problems of action/reaction were at work.
  • be willing to experiment and abandon experiments that aren’t working.
  • use warm-up to tune into the heart of concern; attend to what is observable, interesting, and relevant.  Mark your learning by determining your next steps, adding homework before the next session, when appropriate.

SOLO SCHOOLING FORMAT: Caveats-(p186-187)- Shape each sessions into an enjoyable, productive experience for you and your horse.  Use the format as a basis, but be open to making diversions.

P 181-182 FORMAT


  • tune in
  • free/unblock
  • frame


  • explore
  • resource
  • focus & forward action


  • unwind
  • celebrate
  • mark learning
  • think forward


p183-184  STAGE ONE: WARM UP the mind and body of you and your horse.  Never cut this stage short.  If you work more than one horse, remember each needs an adequate warm-up.

  • TUNING IN: develop rapport with the horse, while you are walking on a long rein.  Discover how your horse is feeling physically and mentally.  Build on rapport & trust developed during TUNING IN; extend with play, experimentation, and discovery to the heart of the lesson.
  • FREEING & UNBLOCKING: TUNING IN provides information to anything that blocks fluency, (tightness or distraction of horse or rider).  To release and unblock, work long and low, ride big shapes, change directions frequently, do suppling exercises, alternate rising/sitting trot, light/deep seat, play with weight & rein aids, leg yield on straight lines and on circles.
  • FRAMING: check your state, (feelings), to ensure a positive frame to produce a productive, rather than limiting session.  If your frame is negative, return to FREEING & UNBLOCKING.  Monitor opportunities your horse offers to improve something you or he finds difficult.

P 185-186  STAGE TWO: WORKOUT  This state is full of engagement leading to learning, consolidation, or achievement.  It doesn’t need to last long; cultivate stopping at the peak moment to carry positive feelings forward to the next session.

  • EXPLORING- the state of playful attentiveness, (give & receive); variations of the message yield different results- notice and reflect on feedback from your conversation.
  • RESOURCING- become aware of what is needed to resolve difficulties or to take you further. Note external resources, (ex- schooling patterns, work without stirrups, etc) and internal resources, (ex- strategies to a foster positive state, etc), and capability issues, (ex- need to schedule a lesson or get more information).
  • FOCUSING & FORWARD ACTION- the heart of playful learning; moments of intense focus when you refine something enough to feel you’ve made a difference, which will take you in the direction you want to go.


  • CELEBRATING- reward your horse immediately as soon as you receive a ‘yes’ feeling
  • UNWINDING- take time to cool muscles, unwind mentally by allowing focus to open
  • MARKING THE LEARNING- while you are cooling down; put the experience into a frame that is easily remembered and retrieved.  Remind yourself of key ideas a couple of times immediately after the schooling session.
  • THINKING FORWARD- as you put your horse back and take yourself home, ask yourself what comes next.  Finish with a curiosity frame for continued exploration and inquiry at many levels.

p 187- 192  THE WORK STRUCTURE IN ACTION- Read about a schooling session with Sean, a professional trainer and Harry, an Intermediate event horse.  Harry responds to pressure by rearing.  Sean uses coaching & nlp to engage and work Harry on the bit without force or pressure. Two successful strategies for Sean were using an exhale breath on down transitions and “spinning back” his inside shoulder in time with the canter stride.  “Spinning back” the shoulder is Charles de Kunffy’s strategy for engagement in the canter, which has the effect of enhancing the massaging effect of the inside seat bone on the horse’s corresponding long back muscle, which encourages the same side hind leg to engage and lift in the canter.  The rider can use this non-confrontational aid intermittently to rebalance and collect or for longer periods to promote and maintain engagement.

P 192- You can learn from even difficult or frustrating sessions.  Progress means shifts in your mind and your horse’s mind, just as much as “improvement” in your observable performance.


Good Questions and Thoughtful Listening

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, read these coaching/motivation notes with your non-riding goals in mind.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

a partnership is good questions and thoughtful listening

a partnership is good questions and thoughtful listening,                      copyright C. Isgreen

book study

Part 4: “Coaching in Action” Chapter 11: “Coaching Yourself with Questions”

P 176  CHAPTER INTRO: Statements define and limit your response.  Open questions begin an internal search.

P 176-178 LEADING QUESTIONS: Don’t ask leading questions to which you know the answer.  ex: If the horse is falling into the circle because the rider’s weight is not centered, don’t ask, “Why did your horse fall in?”  In part 2, p44-45 the author advises us to avoid the question “why” because it leads to feelings of guilt and blame.  Instead ask “WHAT did you notice?” or “HOW can you help your horse to stay balanced on the circle?”  When coaching yourself, avoid WHY questions for the same reasons.  Form questions to:

  • sort through existing information
  • to seek information at the unconscious level
  • focus on specifics to indentify the key to what is/is not happening
  • to identify evidence of change or achiement

Questions take pressure off you and detail a problem into a prescription for improvement.  Begin questions with how, what, where, when, who; avoid why.  HOW is the best question.


  •  is the result of curiosity and questioning
  • reveals evidence, (internal & external), to inform how & what happens
  • moves you forward

P178  HOW is the best question to ask.

  • HOW models exemplars.
  • HOW pinpoints what to continue & what to improve.

P178  WHAT is another great coaching question.  Refine a WHAT question by asking:

  • what specifically tells me…….?
  • what next?
  • what else?

P179-180  QUESTIONING YOUR HORSE  Be tuned into your horse’s behavior.  You will learn what he knows, doesn’t know, and what he thinks you are asking.  If your horse gives the wrong answer, take the perspective of 3rd position, (outside yourself), to analyze your horse’s understanding.  Horses are incapable of lying.  Ask your horse:

  • how else can I explain?
  • what are the clearest signals I can give?
  • what range of signals do you understand?
  • what happens when I ask………..?
  • how do you let me know you find something difficult?  too difficult?  confusing?  easy?  fun?  scary?  etc

Besides behavior, pay attention to your horse’s facial expressions.  Refine your communication through processing your horse’s answers.

Good questioning and thoughtful listening will guide schooling, ensure relevance & purpose, and yield subtle & effective riding.

Junior Rights and a Drought

maximizing resources

maximizing resources

Climate change, global warming, drought.  Call it what you will; when you live close to the land, you pay attention.  I was disconcerted to learn we would not have our water share this year and that my neighbor would not be able to allow my horses to graze his pasture until it recovers from all this dry weather.  I rigged up some ropes and put them in the lawn.  I had planned to get rid of a large part of this grass with xeriscaping, but now I think I’m going to need it- even if I have to water the grass with municipal water.

Make a Real Difference

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, read these coaching/motivation notes with your non-riding goals in mind.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

Triangulation- using 3 points of perspective

Triangulation- using 3 points of perspective

book study

Part 2: “Getting Started;” Chapter 4: “Triangulation”

P 50-51 EXPANDING THE COMPARATIVE PROCESS: Triangulation is a way to expand the comparative process using three points of reference to evaluate problems and progress.  With three points of reference, you can analyze which difference makes the real difference.  Triangulation provides valuable information to measure and evaluate strategies.

P 52-54  HOW TRIANGULATION WORKS: (Each situation below illustrates three different points of reference; compare the three points of reference to determine a course of action.)

  1. Working out where you are now in relation to your aims: point 1-how things are now; point 2- how you want things to be; point 3- the difference between pt 1 & 2 indicated by self-assessment, understanding, observer comments, outside events/conditions/etc.  COMPARE/DETERMINE A COURSE OF ACTION.
  2. Working out the difference that makes a difference: point 1- an experience that went well; point 2- a similar experience that went poorly; point 3- the difference between point 1 & 2  COMPARE/DETERMINE A COURSE OF ACTION.
  3. Assessing your progress toward your aims: point 1- your goal; point 2- how it used to be; point 3- your progress  COMPARE/DETERMINE A COURSE OF ACTION based on the difference and what still needs to be accomplished.
  4. Comparing the effectiveness of different strategies: point 1- issue or problem; point 2-effect of strategy A on problem; point 3-effect of strategy B on problem  COMPARE effectiveness of strategies
  5. Understanding how the same situation may be viewed by different participants from different perspectives: point 1- your perspective/1st position; point 2- your horse’s perspective/2nd position; point 3- objective observer/3rd position  COURSE OF ACTION: neither you nor your horse is right/wrong; find a way to harmonize.

P55-56  SENSORY SYSTEM CHECK  Gather information using the full range of senses, not just your preferred sense for interpreting your world.  Individuals think in unique ways, replaying or creating thoughts using their dominant or sensory mode.  Some individuals are visual learners; others rely on physical feelings, (kinesthetic), or auditory input.  Within each sensory mode, individuals rely on unique sub-modes.  Example: a kinesthetic learner may rely on a sense of pressure; another kinesthetic learner will rely on rhythm.  When triangulating, note which sensory mode you are using for input.  Note which perspective you are coming from, articulate details, note what happens if you change the sensory mode, the submode, and the perspective.  Gather as much information as possible to develop strategies for improvement.

P56-58 LOGICAL LEVEL CHECK  Verify assets & results through the following hierarchy.  Use logic levels as starting points to examine issues for triangulation.  Though it’s a hierarchy, all logic levels are equally important. Example: Rider problems can arise at the identity level, (top), if rider view self as failure.  Rephrase problem to one of capability or behavior.  Then determine a course of action to improve skills.  Logic levels allow rider to define a problem or goal, and/or determine steps toward progressive purposeful progress.

  • identity: (top of the pyramid)
  • beliefs & values
  • capability, (what you know & can do)
  • behaviors, (what & how you do)
  • environment, (external circumstances)

P58-59  SUMMARIZING THE PROCESS  Triangulation is a process for self-assessment.

1.  Action to map where you are in relation to

  • where you’re coming from
  • what you want and how you’re going to get there
  • how far you’ve come

2.  Relates three points, such as

  • self, (1st person)
  • other, (2nd person)


  • how you were
  • how you want to be
  • models of excellence
  • theoretical understanding

3.  Amplified and enriched by sensory system, (one or more of 5 senses)

4. Verified by logical levels

5.  Provides options for action and change

P 59-64  TRIANGULATION IN ACTION- WORKING WITH NIKKI G  The last section discusses Jago’s case study, coaching Nikki G.  Nikki’s goals were developed into a triangulation strategy:

  1. Nikki’s current riding style
  2. her style with added positional improvements
  3. her larger goal, (improved movement of her horse) which her positional improvements will aid

The discussion of this coaching session introduces the idea of chunking.  Chunking puts together information into various size filters to analyze goals, strategies, and progress.  Starting with a basic goal, one can chunk down to break these goals into smaller, achievable steps. Chunking up takes the basic goal to articulate the larger outcome.  In Nikki’s case, the basic goal is improved position in the saddle. She will chunk down to pinpoint how she can improve her position: (make her hands more equal, correct her lower leg position, and sit with a more upright posture.)  Chunking up gives her a vision of her ultimate outcome: a horse with expressive, fluid movement.  The discussion illustrates how they aligned the work to logic levels, to ensure a coherence of activity, purpose, and achievement.

Developing Awareness, Part II

from Chapter 3 of Solo Schooling, by Wendy Jago

For non-equestrian subscribers, read these coaching/motivation notes with your non-riding goals in mind.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

Here are my notes for the conclusion of Ch.3, tips on developing your awareness.

Engage in keep observation.  Detailed investigation will open possibilities and reveal information without feeling like criticism or pressure.  Try these tips to develop skill in becoming a detective of your experiences:

  • Choose one thing at a time; allow sufficient time to develop focus.
  • Concentrate on one sense, then build awareness from other senses until understanding is rich and complex.
  • Be creative to get sensory input from unfamiliar sources, (ex: ride on the lunge with eyes closed).
  • Identify patterns; build on successful ones/use problematic ones to deconstruct hinderances.
  • Identify moments of change.  What happened just before?  What was the relationship?
  • Calibrate differences between your experiences and those of others.