Are you holding back with your horse?

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” — Joe Sabah

I really like this quote, so many times people hold back because they think they should know more or need to be better to really be able to achieve the goals they have.  Reality is, that you have just got to make a start and once you start, you can then practise at getting good and of course, greatness always follows!  I hope this gives you some inspiration for the day 🙂

Diago’s Journey – Part 2

So what has the way you catch your horse got to do with riding him? The short answer is EVERYTHING!! The long answer? Whenever I work with young horses, difficult horses, starting them under saddle and any horse really, my main aim is to have permission from my horse to do what I am doing with them. Having respect and trust are also very important when working with a horse, but for them to actually LIKE you will mean the difference between you getting slammed or the horse cutting you some slack if you get something wrong, and, well, we would all like to think we are good at what we do, but we are human and sometimes that can happen! 🙂

Making sure you have permission to approach and put your halter on your horse is the first step towards building a good rapport with him and how you go about this can set up your whole session for that day….and following days!

When I first started working with Diago, getting permission didn’t come easily. All I wanted was to be able to approach him, have him look towards me and offer me a nice flex through his body. What did Diago do? He looked away, braced and ran! At the beginning, I spent a number of sessions entirely on approaching him and asking for permission. Yes, I could have cornered him, blocked him or pushed on his hindquarters and made him come to me, but these are all ways of making your horse be caught. If I wanted to set our relationship up right from the beginning, I needed to be able to walk up to him without making him feel intimidated and have him allow me to come into his space.

You can see in this video that Diago still feels the need to move off when I come into the yard with him, but he does stop (maybe a little too close to the other horse) once he is happy that I don’t have any sinister intentions. By approaching his shoulder, he still has the option to run forward or backwards, or flex towards me which he chooses to do, so at this stage of his training, I am pretty happy with that. My patients has really paid off as now he is one of my easiest caught horses and sometimes he will walk up to me which is a nice plus.

You can also see when I ask Diago to pick his feet up that I don’t’ try to pull his foot up or grab hold of it straight away – this is another trust exercise. Does he trust me enough to offer his foot to me? I am really happy that he is looking towards me when I pick up each foot. This is a really nice sign that he is soft, relaxed and happy with what I am doing…I have permission!

See Part 1 ….

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Mel’s Super Easy Horsemanship Tip #2

The way you leave your horse in the paddock will be the way he remembers you when you go to catch him the next day.

Make sure it is you that leaves your horse rather than your horse leaving you.

Teaching and Training in QLD!

I have not long returned from a fabulous trip to Chambers Flat in QLD where I have been sharing some knowledge as well as working with some horses for most of the week.  I had quite a line up for horse training this time with 5 horses for 5 days.  People often ask me if I can really help a horse in such a short time considering that most horse trainers will take a horse for a number of weeks to train them.

My answer is yes, absolutely… or I would not be doing it.  I think the difference is that I am focusing on educating the horse rather than using repetition to train them.  What is the difference I hear you ask?  With RFT (Release Focus Training) I am focusing on giving the horse options and the chance to make a decision about whether they take up our offer or not.  Because we are encouraging the thinking side of their brains, we develop their confidence and of course they don’t forget!  They therefore are not needing to do this over and over for them to learn or remember.

The goals for these horses over the week were all a little different, from an older horse that just needed to spruce up his forward to a couple of young Thoroughbreds who were very green and hadn’t been ridden for a couple of years.  Of course I can’t fully educate a horse in this time which is why I work with the horses owners on a plan to keep them moving forward to complete their education.  By involving the owners in the education process, we can ensure that the training that I do gets great follow up, the horse sees the continuity in what I do and what their riders do and the riders have a clear understanding of where their horses are at.

Following my week of training, we held a workshop with a group of students looking at moving up to the next level in their horsemanship. Steering, stopping and getting lighter transitions was the focus of the day and by the looks of the slideshow, everyone was doing a fabulous job!

Our Quantum Savvy Agent for the Scenic Rim area did a fantastic job of organising and putting the whole week together – a HUGE thank you to Jenn Wagstaff for inviting me to spend a week with you all at Chambers Flat and thank you to Chambers Flat Equestrian Park for providing a great facility for us for the week.

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The Secret to Getting Help With Your Horse

To truly receive help, you first must be prepared to help yourself
– Mel Peacock

Diago’s Journey – Part 1

I have had Diago for about 4 years now, he came to me a very scared, stiff and unconfident horse.  He was owned by a Dressage Instructor who felt he wasn’t going to make it as a dressage horse and his thing was that he would buck whenever being brought back into riding after a spell.  When she tried to move him on, she found it quite difficult as everyone one who come to ride him would get bucked off!


Why did I buy him you ask?  Well I actually only had a friend look at him and hadn’t seen him myself, but I had always loved paint horses, I had one as a kid …. and …. well … isn’t he gorgeous!  All the things you don’t do when buying horses I know, and I also felt I had the skills to be able to help him out.  BUT!  What a journey we have been on!


I remember when I first brought him home, I put him in his yard and gave him a feed.  I just happened to have my stick in my hand at the time and thought I would show it to him.  He bolted instantly!  There was no way I was going to get that thing near him!  Right then I had a pretty good idea of why he bucked – this is going to be a piece of cake I thought, just got to build his confidence.  Although at that point I didn’t realise how much confidence I was going to need to build with him.


To help Diago, I started taking him through the Quantum Savvy Foundation Programme and even though I have done a lot of work with many different horses, he still had lots of lessons for me.  Diago had a very small comfort zone and a HUGE Chaos zone and only a tiny learning zone which means that it was easy to stretch him too far and he was scared of a LOT of things.  To give you an idea of just what he was like, for the first 6 months I owned him, Diago would constantly be trotting and walking around his yard, even though there were horses right next to him, he just could not stop moving.


As I worked with Diago, I got the progress of his training on film through the assignments in each level of the Foundation Programme and I am very excited to be able to share this progress with you.  This first video was filmed way back in 2012, not all that long after I got him.  It is where I start with all horses – the Basic Skills which are the skills you need to achieve any task with your horse – your steering, stopping and everything else you do with them. He certainly looks very chilled here and nothing like the horse I just described…what a difference you can make with just going back to the basics!


You can see though, when I start asking him to move with the stick that his head goes up and he kind of ‘wakes up’.  An indication that he isn’t totally comfortable with it at this stage and is the reason why we don’t just rely on desensitising them – they need to be comfortable with all the tools we use around them, both when they are not meaning anything as well as when they do mean something, otherwise you end up just scaring them around and that won’t help to build their confidence or your relationship with them.

See Part 2 …..

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Mel’s Super Easy Horsemanship Tip #1

If you want your horse to respect your fences (and avoid injury or escapes!) make sure you keep your feed in the middle of your paddock or yard – or away from the fence. Feeding your horse on the fence runs the risk of your horse learning to disrespect and lean on it.

What are you really getting from your riding lessons?

Have you ever followed someone to a place you have never been and then when it comes time to navigating your way to that same place by yourself, you find you have no idea where to go?


I remember when I got my first horse and started getting some riding lessons I was so excited because I was finally going to learn how to ride properly!  I started having some regular lessons which was great! I would hop on my horse and ride around and my instructor would shout out some instructions that I would follow to the best of my ability.  We would go home and ride for the rest of the week…never sure about what I was doing, but did what I could remember and next week I would go back and do the same thing again.  Over some time, I thought I had my horse going great, we had attended some pony club events and had some fun together.  Then, I got a job, and got busy and stopped riding my horse for a while.  When I finally made some time for him to go for a ride, I saddled him up, hopped on and I remember very clearly thinking…’well what do I do now?’  I had no idea where to start!  I couldn’t remember what exercises we had done in the past and even why I needed to do them.  I was going to have to start all over again. Feeling a bit disempowered I put him back in the paddock and went back to work.


Fortunately for me, my desire to ride overpowered my disappointment and some time later I found someone who had a very different view on how to teach.  I was asked questions, I was given some direction and I was sent home to practise.  I was given the opportunity to have some interaction with my coach so that I could ask questions about how I was going in between the live coaching sessions.  I started looking forward to riding my horse, understood why I was doing what I was doing and what was even more amazing was that the next time I saw my coach, we would be learning new stuff every time. Through this, the progress I made was astounding!


So why did this make so much of a difference for me?  Even now as a coach myself I still see the instructors out there giving the instructions.  You would think that this gives the rider an insight to what their instructor is seeing and feeling as they get to act on the instructors timing etc.  But what ends up happening is that the rider starts to just ‘follow them to the destination’, just like you would if you were following someone to a new place.  They stop thinking and processing what they are doing as they wait for the next instruction and turn into a puppet waiting for the strings to move them.  This stops any actual learning process as there is no thinking involved, it is just automatic response to an order and therefore, you will be needing to do lots of it to actually get anywhere.  This also has a very detrimental effect on the rider as they become reliant on the instructor to tell them what to do…but what happens when you are at home by yourself with your horse and something doesn’t go as planned?  What do you do?  You have nothing to draw from and of course your confidence plummets….and you go back to your instructor for more help!  Now this may be good for the instructors pocket, but how good is this for you?


So when it comes time for you to choose a riding coach, ask yourself – are they genuinely interested in helping YOU make progress with your horse and reach your goals, or are they just happy to give you orders and take your money?  Do they push you and encourage you to do the very best for your horse or do they just pat you on the back and say you are doing great?  Do they really understand what is it they are teaching you or are they just repeating the orders that they were given themselves?  The answers to these questions might help you to determine if you have an instructor or a coach.


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QLD You Can Do It Too Tour

I have recently returned from a trip to QLD to join the Quantum Savvy Team on the You Can Do It Too Tour…It’s a hard life when you have to spend a week on the Gold Coast and another on the Sunshine Coast!!


With a demonstration allocated to myself and Diago, I was feeling a little unsure how he would go as he has had a little bit of time off at the start of the year and my preparation for this trip I felt was a little bit underdone. BUT!! Not to worry when you have a good solid foundation under you.

My first demo on the Gold Coast we had just arrived the day before and after two days of standing in the float I checked out how he was feeling and did what felt right and to my surprise, Diago handled it all really well (I might add that this was Diago’s first official Demonstration!) Even with the group demo at the start of the day where we had quite a few people with their horses all going round doing all sorts of different things, plus we were in a reasonably small area surrounded with the flags that flapped in the wind. A recipe that once would have been all too much for my precious boy. Again I thanked the effectiveness of building up a good solid foundation with him.

The following week we moved onto the Sunshine Coast to do it all again, new area, small space, lots of people & horses. Second time round, Diago just put in! I think at heart he must be just a bit of a show off!! The crowd loved him and we even got lots of applause. It was that moment that I realised just how far he had come, all the hard work that I put in with him had paid off and I felt so proud of him!!


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Welcome to my new look website

Thank you for visiting my website.  This site is still under construction so please bear with me as I will be updating in between riding my horses!  In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with your questions – I love talking horses!!