Counterintuitive Series, #1:
Does THIS really matter?

This is the first in a series of ‘good practices’ for riding that are counterintuitive – or maybe we think they’re not THAT important.

Over the next six videos, I’m going share one ‘yah-yah, but does it really matter’ idea, explain why I think it’s important and I’ll give a simple tip to you for doing it.

This first video is about the simple practice of setting an intention before you ride.

You may think that setting an intention before your ride does not significantly impact your ride.

I understand why you might think that.

But in this video, I explain why I believe setting an intention is counterintuitive for most of us, and why I know it matters.

You’ll also come along with me on a little adventure to boogie land with Nic! HA! It will be fun to see what happens.


Heh, it’s Barb.

I’m going on a little ride in a few minutes with Nic, and I’m inviting you to come with us. We’re going to a spot in the pasture that has scared him in the past. In fact, last year, he wheeled away from a woodsy area where some deer, and coyotes, and other creatures call home.

We all know horses have a sixth sense about a lot of things, so that’s no surprise.

The reason I’m doing this is that this video is the first in a series about some of the ‘good practices’ of riding, but they’re counterintuitive – or they don’t seem that important.

Over the next six videos, I’m going to share one of these ‘yah-yah’ ideas, explain why I think they’re important, and I’ll give a simple tip to you for doing them.

This video is about the simple practice of setting an intention before we ride.

You may think that ‘setting an intention’ thing before your ride does not significantly impact your ride. I understand why you might think that.

But here’s why I think setting an intention is counterintuitive and why I think it matters.

It’s counterintuitive because you’re often in a hurry when you get to the barn if you’re like me. Or at least you were before you arrived. You want to mount up, get going, and work on that touchy spot in your riding or your horse’s training. ‘That’s what really matters.’

But you see, with a horse, the energy we bring to the situation before and during a ride sets the stage for everything that happens from that point forward. It’s invisible, but boy is it strong!

If we don’t take the time to set an intention for each ride, we bring to our horse whatever random energy we have from our day so far.

Also, an intention is like a mini-visualization. When you set an intention for a smooth ride; for example, for a moment in time, you automatically visualize what that intention looks or feels like as you ride.

Here’s how to set an intention. Say to yourself what descriptive characteristics you want to experience in your ride.

So let’s get going, and I’ll show you what I mean. I’ll meet you at the scary woods.


I’m walking over to this area by the fence where Nic has seen and sensed boogie men in the form of other creatures.

Before I get there, I’m setting an intention that all will not only go smoothly but most importantly, I will help Nic stay cool.

I’m not pretending that this intention will magically take his fears away, but I am going to do what I can to create the experience I want, which is to stay calm and respond well to him.

Of course, as riders, we need to know what we will actually do. This is the technical side of riding. The intention covers the spirit of it – if you will.

So, if I begin to feel Nic swell underneath me or raise his head, my intention will be to stay calm, pause, let him know I hear and see him and wait for a moment until he relaxes.

What’s not ok is for him to wheel away. I don’t really care how close I get to the woods. I want him to have a good experience.


Wow! I don’t know if it was the power of my intention, but honestly, I am quite surprised he was so quiet. This is the first time he’s ever felt so comfortable here. Fantastic!

I know it wasn’t too dramatic, but I’m delighted for Nic.

So, there you go…

Leave a comment about setting intentions. Remember, they provide the spirit and the attitude of the ride as they give you a positive image in your mind of how you’d like things to go.

I think it’s something that can be cultivated as a habit, but it’s not super intuitive to take the time to do it.

Do you use intentions? Do you think it’s important, or better yet, makes a difference?

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18 Comments on Counterintuitive Series, #1:
Does THIS really matter?

  1. Pamela Robins on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 1:34 pm
  2. Thank you so very much for your video and advice. You have a natural way about you. You are kind and soft spoken which really sets my mind up in a quiet, calm way. Thank you so very much for your message, I truly appreciate everything you do to help all of us become not only better riders but better horsemen and woman.

  3. Cindy Newell on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 1:41 pm
  4. Thank you for doing this series, Barb! I have come to realize in the last 2 years how important intention is to my practicing at home and at a show. I didn’t realize that it also helped me visualize my ride but I can see how it would. It also helps me be responsive to my horse because I know what I want and I check to make sure I’m getting it. I never did this in the past and now that I am, we are getting better at what we do.

  5. Terrie Goiney on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 3:08 pm
  6. Love your insights today, awesome Nic didn’t get scared as he got closer to the woods. Likely like you said he felt your calmness as you talked to us while videoing and riding. Riding a young horse now with my nerves of the what ifs, I find I really have to focus on positive intent to be a good leader while riding him. My now four year old is very nice minded but does have questions as we ride along down the road or the trails and I find if I have more trust(mainly in my skills) and ride with intent to direct him during his times of questions everything goes well.

  7. Vera Widmer on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 4:40 pm
  8. Hi dear Barb, awesome. It is exactly what you said, I realized that my horses mood and fears are matching my feelings. Even when I do not realize that I am hectic or nervous inside and my outside is very calm, he can sense it very fast. So it is important to make positive intents and take the time. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Vera from Switzerland

  9. Carol MacGregor on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 7:06 pm
  10. Hi Barb, Well you had my heart pounding as Nic walked closer and closer!!! Ha Ha!! I can sure see why he would be fearful of those woods where the “wild things” live! You both did awesome; maybe because of your focused intentions. 🙂 So can you tell us all what you would have done if he had been more nervous and spooky, even to the point where you thought he might “bolt”. I think it would be helpful to hear your thoughts on that “scene”. Thank you for your clear messages!

  11. Janice on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 8:01 pm
  12. I have been practicing my intentions while on the ground. I think it helps me to do it as a habit, and I think it will help me with the anxiety I often feel when I ride. I believe it will help me to deal more effectively with behaviors that I can anticipate .

  13. Robbin Sinclair on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 8:28 pm
  14. Barb- so nice to see Nic be quiet with you 😃. I practice “intention” with Ivy and hear your voice. I have a positive vision plan while riding. I relax and breath and listen for her to take a breath. Friday while in the arena riding with others I was waiting for her to blow her nostrils and after a few laps that’s what she did. Drops her head, blows out and relaxes at a walk. I wait for this now when we ride, it’s like a signal that now she’s warming out and getting ready for whatever riding is coming. Every few laps we stop and I take a breath and I wait to see if she’ll take a breath and I give her a nice rub on the neck and say Good Girl. 😃

  15. Jan Crockett on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 8:43 pm
  16. Hello Barb, So glad to get your video and thoughts on intention.Beautiful Spring day here with a multitude of gardening and farming chores needing attention but my heart was wanting to do almost the same as what you and Nic were doing!
    I wanted to try taking my little mare Zoey away from stablemates,down through a trail alongside a field but to then carry on down a steep hill entering the forested “bottom” of our property. Being lower land there were areas of water we had to cross.
    I am an advocate of focus, intention and visualization. I think it plays an important part in our relationship with our horses.
    Zoey and I, also had a wonderful ride through
    the forest and she just amazed me going through all the wet,water holes. Spring in the forest with all the buds just opening is so beautiful. I loved seeing your Texas wildflowers in your video. Thank you so much Barb.We have to be so thankful for all the achievements with our beloved horse partners! Have a great Spring. Jan.

  17. Donna on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 9:53 pm
  18. Well done! Setting an intention has become a regular part of my pre ride ” flight” check list. It’s so much better than heading off with unconscious expectations.

  19. Cate on Sun, 11th Apr 2021 10:22 pm
  20. Hi
    Like someone else in the comments, I’d like to know more about what you would have done if Nic had seemed more worried. If my horse gets worried, I find it hard not to get worried myself, anticipating what she might do.

  21. Christine Miller on Mon, 12th Apr 2021 5:25 am
  22. Love it Barb – he’s such a dude❤️🐴

  23. Elaine Bohlin on Mon, 12th Apr 2021 8:04 am
  24. Thanks Barb. This was good. I agree with Carol and Cate: please do another video on actions to take when we encounter things like “the scary woods”; including to the point of bolting as Carol said.

    My horse and I are working on me staying in the moment and I tell myself (and him) “energy down” when I see him ‘ramp up’. Working on him having confidence in me and me having confidence so I am the ‘safe place’ for him and I can trust him to trust me. He is super quick and I am not as quick as I used to be LOL! Doing a lot of ground work and seeing results. He is now braver like he used to be in approaching scary things on the ground and being more curious than fearful and is less reactive. Some things happened to him at a previous barn that stayed with him a long time, plus he is super smart and very intuitive. you can’t fake it with him. Really have to BE calm/focused. Your guidance has been immensely helpful in re-learning and learning new things that help me improve and grow; in turn helping my horse.

    Agree with others, that Nic felt your focused intentions.

    Love how Nic knows he’s part of the videos! Always love to see him.

  25. Alita on Mon, 12th Apr 2021 9:21 am
  26. Hi Barb
    I am going to go out and do the very same thing as we have scared woods too. I have walked him in hand into the woods but not ridden. Always waiting if his head comes up and also retreating if too much. He blows out, shakes his head then I know to go forward again.
    Thank you for this video I am looking forward to the series.

  27. Barbra Schulte on Mon, 12th Apr 2021 10:43 am
  28. Thank you to everyone for your comments. I’m so glad you enjoyed this video. Carol, if he had gotten scared, I would have stopped, allowed him to look and decide about the situation… and then take a next step slowly until he did that same thing again… repeat. I would not have allowed him to wheel around. Also, I would have decided how much we could have done in that session. And btw, that’s what we usually do. This time was the total exception. Interesting to me, too.

  29. Carol MacGregor on Mon, 12th Apr 2021 11:28 am
  30. Hi Barb, Thank you for your explanation about how you would have handled Nic if he was very hesitant or too “spooky” to be safe. That’s helpful. Horses are soooo quick when they decide they need to “leave town”!!! Ugh–I know too well. 🙁

  31. cheryl on Tue, 13th Apr 2021 8:45 am
  32. Way to go Nick!
    Thank you Barbra for this reminder to slow down, and the concept of Intention. Will work on that today.

  33. Paula Basden on Tue, 13th Apr 2021 9:00 am
  34. Barbra
    I loved this video- thank you for your clear explanations! I rode a trail yesterday and set the intention as you suggested of a nice peaceful ride. As we rode a fence line, out of nowhere a flock of guineas started running toward us loudly from our neighbor’s land. My horse spooked and we lost all sense of peace…both he and I….it all happens so fast. I wish I would of remembered faster your mantra of eyes/seat/breathe…I did practice that, but it was a few seconds too late. My question: How long would you have Nic stand and look at whatever he is spooked at? What if he couldn’t seem to find a place of settling?

  35. Barbra Schulte on Sat, 17th Apr 2021 9:42 am
  36. Paula, I understand your question. So much depends on the situation. Main points… no wheeling away, yet allowing a horse to look… and wait for him/her to relax and then decide if you ride on (eyes forward) or come back at another time. I hope that helps.

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