The #1 secret to riding & training well.
More important than you think.
The Most Important Secret To
Horse Training & Riding Well
By Larry Trocha
A pro’s advice about how to get good at riding
and training horses and the fastest way
to get there.
Dear Friend and Horseman,
Welcome to another Horse Training Tips Insider.
This issue may be the most
important one I’ve ever written. If you will actively put this
information into practice, it could improve your riding and training
significantly. I would recommend reading it several times.
Okay, lets get started.
As a horse trainer who
deals with non-pros, I am exposed to many of the problems that
plague amateur horsemen… Both, in the training pen and the show
Do you know what their
most common complaint is?
Here it is in bold type…
“I Just Can’t Get My Horse To Do It”
Professional trainers who give a lot of lessons, hear this all the time.
Most non pros will have some problems riding and training their horse. If you are
one of them, please don’t feel like you are the only one having trouble.
You’re in the same boat as a lot of folks.
First, I’d like to make it clear that training a horse to perform at an
advanced level is no easy task.
I’ve had students who
were geniuses. And I’ve had students who were superior athletes. They all
felt that learning to ride and train horses was one of the most challenging
things they have ever done.
forget this one guy in particular. He held multiple black-belts in
several different marshal arts. He even taught martial arts. And, he was also
a top business executive with a major corporation.
was as talented a person as I’ve ever seen. Yet, after a year of trying
to learn how to ride performance horses, he quit. Why? His exact words
were; “This is the hardest, most frustrating thing I ever attempted to
Truer words were
to ride and train horses is much like trying to master a martial art.
Like a martial art, it takes
focus and concentration combined with timing and coordination.
However, because there is another living being involved (the horse), it is more complex.
After reading the above paragraph, I want you to realize that if you’re
having any success at all training your horse, you’re doing
great. Even if your progress is painfully slow, the fact that you
ARE progressing should make you feel good about yourself.
I’ve been in the business since 1980 so training horses is fairly easy for me.
The reason it’s easy for me is because I’ve put in the time, plus I’ve
had hundreds of horses to practice on.
think for a minute that training was easy while I was learning it. No way. I remember well how hard I had to struggle.
Here’s some very GOOD
elaborating on how complex it is to learn to ride and train horses, let
me say this…
anybody… who really wants to… can learn to do it!
That’s right, I totally believe if you can walk and chew gum at the same time, you have all
the physical ability you need to be able to ride a horse well.
Plus, if you have
enough mental focus to be able to analyze problems and read
you probably also have the ability to train a horse.
Here is the point I
want to make:
You do not
have to be a super athlete to ride well. And you do not
have to be a genius to train a horse well, either.
There are some very successful horsemen who are short and fat with no more
athletic ability or brain power
than the next guy.
So, what sets these
successful horsemen apart from everybody else?
They have a strong desire
to succeed and an acute awareness of what they are doing.
The big “success
factor” here is the awareness of what they are doing and
to change when they discover they’re doing something wrong.
and ability to change” is so important it can’t be stressed enough.
reveal how YOU too can use the power of “awareness and change” to dramatically improve your riding and training.
Okay, lets get started!
The hidden “secret element” to successful riding and training.
I know people who study every training technique
known to mankind. They have attended many horse training clinics and watched many different trainer’s videos. They know quite a few training methods by
But surprisingly, none of the training methods they have
learned seem to work for them. When they try them out on their horse,
the horse doesn’t respond right.
Why do you suppose this is? Why doesn’t their horse respond to
them the same way the horses respond to the pro trainers in the videos?
Well, its because there is a very good chance
the non pros aren’t DUPLICATING the method exactly the way
they’ve seen the trainer do it.
In other words, they are NOT using their
HANDS, LEGS and BODY
the way they THINK they’re using them.
Because of this, they practice the training techniques over and over
but no improvement is made.
Undoubtedly, you have heard the old saying that
“Practice Makes Perfect”.
Well, no it doesn’t…
Only “perfect” practice makes
Let me illustrate a common scenario.
Some time ago, a man came to me for lessons. He was having
trouble getting his horse to turn on the hocks.
The reason he was having trouble is because he was
taking the direct rein way out to the side, causing the horse to walk a
circle instead of doing a turn on the hindquarters.
During the lesson, I told the man to bring his hand
in close to his hip, about the same height as his belt loops. I explained
to him that using his hand at this angle will bring the horse back on
Then, I demonstrated the proper hand movement 3 or 4
times so he can see it. I then told him to repeat the maneuver and
do it correctly. And what did he do? He did it wrong again!
In fact, he used his hand exactly the same way he did before. And it’s not because he wasn’t trying.
Is this guy an idiot? Is he a physical retard? Absolutely not. This man’s reaction to my instruction is the same reaction that 85%
of the people have.
So why do people react this way? Why couldn’t this
guy use his hand the way I showed him?
The answer is “MUSCLE MEMORY”.
We get in the
HABIT of using our arms and legs a certain way. And this “way of
moving” is etched into our brain like a deep neurological rut. It
can be very difficult to overcome.
So how do you overcome it? Well, there are several different
ways. In the case of the man who was taking
the lesson, I had to physically take him by the arm and move it for him.
I literally guided his hand forward and back causing it to go the way it
needed to go in order to turn the horse correctly. He practiced moving
his hand this way for about three minutes (just sitting on his horse).
I then asked him to try the maneuver again. He picked up the reins and
turned his horse over the hock beautifully. A new neurological rut,
though shallow, had been etched.
The most practical way to overcome undesirable muscle memory, is to have a friend
video tape you riding your horse. Study the video closely and see if
you’re using your hands, legs and body correctly.
If you aren’t doing it right, sit on your horse, concentrate and go through the motions
correctly. Do this over and over until you get the feel of it. Then pick
up the reins and try it for real.
After you’ve practiced, have your friend video you
again. There is something about seeing yourself making
the mistakes that helps your mind make the corrections. If you’ll
actually do this, in a short time you’ll be doing it perfectly.
Some common muscle memory problems.
Let me give you a few real-life examples of
undesirable muscle memory…
Here is the #1 problem I see non pros make
when trying to school their horse…
They ride with too long of a rein.
They have their reins so long that when they need
to make contact with the horse’s mouth, they can’t. They end up
their wrist and contorting their arm trying to get it done.
Of course when they use their hands like this, they
won’t have any luck stopping or turning a horse on his hocks. They won’t
have any luck with collection either.
They need to ride carrying their hands out in front
of the swells of the saddle. The reins need to be short enough so that
when they move their elbows back, they can easily make contact with the horse’s mouth.
Pay attention to how professional trainers use
their hands. They ALL ride carrying
their hands way out in front of the saddle. They do this for a very good
Trainers simply move their elbows back!
Please read the above sentence again. It’s a major
Here is another common problem…
No matter what purpose you use your horse for, the
most important thing a horse can do is a good, strong stop on the
However, you can take the best trained stopping
horse in the world and put the average amateur on his back and
that horse won’t stop worth a damn.
Why? Because the average rider doesn’t
ride the stop correctly.
You see, to get a good stop, its imperative that the rider sits relaxed in the saddle. He needs to sit on his jean pockets with his lower back rounded and shoulders relaxed. His legs need to be relaxed too.
The average rider does just the opposite. He is
stiff. His back is arched and rigid. He sits on his thighs instead of the cheeks of his butt. His shoulders are tight and
his legs are usually stiff too. Ride like this and no horse will stop
Now, even if the rider is aware of all this…
Even if he is instructed to sit the stop
correctly, what do you think his chances are that he can change and do everything
right within a few lessons? I’ll tell you… slim to none. Why? Because
muscle memory will override his efforts.
Here is another example…
When it comes to undesirable muscle memory, cutting
horse riders suffer the most. The big moves, speed and quickness of the
cutting horse makes it difficult for the rider to change bad riding
habits. Everything is happening so fast.
If a person sits stiff on a cutting horse, all
kinds of bad things happen. When the horse stops hard with the cow, the
rider loses his balance, falls forward and accidentally spurs the horse
in the flanks. Of course, this ruins the horse’s stop.
If the rider is stiff when the horse is turning
with the cow, it really messes up the turn and causes the horse to make
a multitude of mistakes. Including ruining the horse’s form, style and eye
Too many rides like this will cause even the best
horses to come untrained.
Unfortunately, time doesn’t fix this problem. The rider
is in the HABIT of riding that way. His muscles are actually
conditioned to tighten up when the action starts.
Unless he makes a
concentrated effort to change,
he’ll ride like this always. For years and years.
Okay, now you understand the problem.
Let’s talk about a solution.
You know, we all learn differently. And what works
well for one person, may not work for another.
So, I’m going to tell you how I resolve my
problems with muscle memory and you can modify it to better suit
First, I ANALYZE the situation and try
to figure out what is causing the problem.
I become AWARE of how I’m riding and using
my body. I try to FEEL how I’m riding. (Some will need to see a video of
If I find that I’m using my body in a way that is a
problem, I CONCENTRATE on CHANGING how I use my body, changing my
I would practice to fix these problems but I’d
concentrate on fixing only ONE problem at a time.
You see, are minds can only think about one thing
at a time. Its impossible to concentrate on more than one. Try thinking
about two things at the same time. You can’t do it.
I would work on fixing the first problem until doing it correctly became a habit. Once it becomes a habit, I won’t have to think about it anymore. It’ll become an automatic response.
Then I’d move on the the next problem.
Let’s continue with the example about “riding
the stop” that I talked about earlier.
I would ask the horse to stop several times and I
would pay very close attention to what my body is doing during those
Let’s say I found that I was arching my back and
that my back muscles were tight. And, I discovered that I was
sitting on my thighs instead of the cheeks of my butt and my legs were stiff too.
First thing I’d do is just sit on the horse
while he’s standing still and try to assume the correct posture for
the stop. I would concentrate mostly on relaxing and rounding my
lower back and sitting on my butt.
The idea is to just sit there completely relaxed
and MELT down into the saddle. Let all your weight shift onto the
cheeks of your butt. The feeling is one of sinking down into the saddle,
kind of like a sack of potatoes.
Once I have it at the stand still, I would ask the
horse to stop from just a walk. I would stop from the walk until
I could do it and keep my back relaxed every single time. It may take 30
or 40 stops over several days before I can do it consistently.
Once I have mastered my body while stopping from
the walk, I would work on the stop from a trot. Again, I would
work on it until I had it down cold. Because you already mastered it at
the walk, it won’t take nearly as long to master it at the trot.
Next, practice keeping your back relaxed when
stopping from the lope. If at any time you find yourself stiffening up
during the stop, go back and practice at a slower speed.
Once you have completely mastered keeping your back
relaxed during the stop and it has become a habit, you can next work on
getting your legs to relax during the stop. Just follow the same
procedure you used to get your back to relax.
I know this sounds like a long, drawn out process
but in reality it really won’t take more than a few weeks to master. And
once you have mastered it, you’ll seldom have to think of it again, as
it will then be part of your NEW muscle memory.
Let’s move on and try to help the cutting horse
Here’s the procedure I use to get
my non pro riders to sit relaxed and in balance on a cutting horse. It works like a charm.
Unfortunately though, few riders have the dedication to stick with it.
In time, they fall right back into their old riding habits.
I tell my cutters to make sure their muscles are
relaxed and loose before they ride into the herd. If they are
not, I’ll have them shake their shoulders back and forth and wiggle their fingers and toes until their body is totally relaxed.
The terminology I use to describe this exercise is,
“shake yourself loose”.
I then have them ride into the herd and cut a cow.
Anytime during the run, if they start to tighten up, I have them
immediately stop and “shake themselves loose”. Once they are
relaxed again, I have them continue working the cow.
This stopping and relaxing the muscles every time
the rider stiffens up, is crucial. Even if the rider needs to
stop every 10 seconds, that is what he should do. We are trying to
train the rider’s muscles to stay relaxed… under all circumstances.
It’s impossible to build the habit of relaxation if the rider continues to work the cow while his muscles are stiff and
At first, the stopping to “shake yourself loose”
will be frequent. But in a matter of a few weeks the rider will have
muscle memory conquered and will find the need to stop and “shake
himself loose” happening less and less.
Eventually, riding a cutting horse doing the
most violent moves will be easy for the rider because his
body is trained to stay relaxed. And staying relaxed is the key
to maintaining good balance and timing.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with this
Learning to ride and use your body correctly is
MORE IMPORTANT than the methods used to train the horse.
In many instances, just riding the horse correctly is enough to get the
horse to perform correctly.
I hope this information helps you. Post a comment below this page and let me know.
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Reining & cutting horse trainer,