Counterintuitive Series #5:
These Come First – Really?

Hello, my Friends!

This is our fifth episode in our counterintuitive series – those basic things in our riding that are important to do, but they’re so easy to forget – and easy to think they don’t carry that much weight.

The first four topics in our series were about:

  • The power of intention and how that sets us up for a positive experience with a clear focus
  • The amazing impact of keeping our eyes up to ensure direction and focus
  • How breathing can transform a ride for the better in literally one breath
  • Feeling your horse move beneath you by focusing on your seat bones

But most often with all these counterintuitive elements, our natural tendency is to do exactly the opposite! That’s the interesting part to me.

Our fifth topic in this video is all about the challenge of using your seat and/or your legs/feet before your hands. We tend to go right to our hands for almost everything!


Pretend as if you’re riding around, and I ask you to stop your horse.

Get into this for a moment. What did you do with your body? Chances are you might have dropped your eyes and then lifted the reins to stop him or her.

That’s so easy to do because we’re thinking STOP, right? The intuitive thing to do is to go right to ask for the stop with our hands. After all, that’s what we’re after!

But here’s the challenge with being so quick with our hands. It doesn’t build confidence in a horse.

That’s because a horse needs time to feel our cues so that he can respond smoothly and with confidence because he understands what we want him to do – and has the time to find it.

He actually WANTS to stop and rest – and he can do it very well and incredibly balanced on his own if he understands and we give him time to feel our body before we begin demanding a faster response to our cues.

This is what it feels like if we don’t give him time to respond. It’s like me coming over to you and out of the blue jerking your arm to change direction and come with me, instead of asking you politely with my voice or a soft tap on the arm.

We don’t intend not to consider the horse’s need to process cues. As humans, we riders tend to think of the result we want – not the process to get there. We want what we want, and we want it now!

But if we make it about the process (not the result) and give our horses time to feel us – then, we can use our hands as support for an increasingly accurate or quicker response – but not as the first cue.

[Barb then demonstrates these ideas during both a stop and a turn on Nic.]

Tip: Get clear on what you want to do. Then get relaxed. Give your horse a seat and/or leg cue first. Give him time to feel it (a few strides at least). If needed, support or guide him more with your hands.

Please leave a comment for me after you try it out. I know it’s challenging to stay patient. The key is staying relaxed.

I look forward to hearing from you and what happened when you tried this. Remember, it IS counterintuitive!

Print This Post Print This Post    Email This Post Email This Post   


9 Comments on Counterintuitive Series #5:
These Come First – Really?

  1. Paula A. Wilcox on Sun, 9th May 2021 1:33 pm
    Love your videos and reading your information and your interviews!!!
    You rock cowgirl!!
    God Bless, Paula

  3. Claire on Sun, 9th May 2021 1:42 pm
  4. Love the idea of using our hands as “support” rather than the cue itself. Changes the way I think about how to use them.Happy Mother’s day to you-I sense it is bitter sweet.

  5. Sarah on Sun, 9th May 2021 2:00 pm
  6. Thanks Barb. Reviewing this simple list of reminders before I ride is so helpful. Since the Core Confidence course last year I’ve done other reading and learning, but your calm, friendly, positive voice is still what keeps me on track.

  7. Lynetta Snelling on Sun, 9th May 2021 2:08 pm
  8. Barb, Love your videos and hoping to work on putting your ideas into practice to become a better horsewoman. It is very wet here in Nebraska! Thinking of you and hope you have a nice Mother’s Day.

  9. Elaine Bohlin on Sun, 9th May 2021 5:02 pm
  10. Barb,

    Thank you – good material as always!

    Looking forward to Cow Class.

  11. marion wheaton on Mon, 10th May 2021 7:16 am
  12. Really like this video. Powerful tools to help the horse learn from the slightest cue.

  13. Jamie on Mon, 10th May 2021 8:10 am
  14. Please do a video on how to coordinate breathing with go & stop cues. Confusing because different sources are opposite: some say inhale to go & some say exhale to go & visa versa.

  15. DeAnna Ball on Tue, 11th May 2021 10:02 am
  16. I think the reason we tried to use all our cues at once is because that is how we drive a car. Thank you for reminding me that I can give a soft cue with my seat,
    And then give the horse time to process the idea and balance his stop on his own.

  17. Gayle Giza on Thu, 13th May 2021 7:55 am
  18. Due to a back issue requiring surgery, I could do just light riding in the arena. Duke and I became bored very quickly so I began playing “what can we do without using reins” games. It is amazing. With getting back to trail riding, etc and little arena time, I slipped back to old habits of hands first. Thanks for the reminder of hands last!

Tell me what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.