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Don Jessop

Did you know that advancing skills tends to reinforce basic skills? In other words, if you want what you're doing to be better... try doing the next hardest thing for a while and notice how it impacts what you've already been working on. For instance, if I want my horse to walk a straight line and he struggles to get it, I might try trotting a straight line a bit then going back to walking. The extra energy and attention, and precision required, buttons down all the loose end nonsense I've been allowing for too long and my walk suddenly feels nice and straight.

Your horse is going to react or get frustrated during some learning experiences no matter what you do, so what are you choosing to focus on when it happens? Will you focus on low-level basic things forever, in hopes that one day they are perfect and always claiming your horse just isn't ready? Or will you focus on progressions to the upper level knowing that each learning experience will be challenging but rewarding too and even helpful to your lower level activities?

Another example... if you spend a few minutes teaching your horse to cross the front feet in a shoulder yield, from a standing position, your horse will begin to understand the basics of shoulder control. If you continue doing that exercise for months and months he'll slowly get better at that skill, but if you advance to shoulder control while walking, such as walking roll backs, you will automatically advance the horse's basic control without focusing directly on the task of moving the shoulders.

You could advance to opening gates too, which would also improve the basics of shoulder yields and add purpose to them at the same time. I've seen riders practice sideways movements for years and not improve, then when you ask that person to spend a day on opening and closing gates from their horse, their sideways improves exponentially, even though opening gates from your horse is way harder than going sideways on a blank arena surface.

Recently I was asked if it's possible to train the upper levels with young or inexperienced horses, I answered by saying, "YES! And it's even nessecary to get your basics down. You just have to think about the next steps." Of course, you have to be careful not to stress the horse physically or mentally, but it's entirely possible to advance a little each time and not stress the horse.

For instance, I'm asking a young horse (who is big enough and old enough to carry me) to learn how to canter well.

Am I cantering for hours? NO!
Am I cantering circle after circle? NO!
Can the horse canter without my influence?
YES, he can and does every day in the field."

So is it okay for me to ask him to learn the signals for cantering?

YES! All I have to do is ask for a little and reward a lot. Before you know it, he's responding to a simple suggestion to move into the canter from a trot. You don't have to drill, you just have to focus on progress instead of rehashing the same old things for month after month. Or in some people's cases, year after year.

Sure it's difficult to ask a horse to advance. Nobody said it was easy, and if they did, they are speaking from years of hard earned experience which makes it "seem" easy to them. But what makes a person even consider the possibility that it's easy to advance is the same wonderful mindset that says, "Think progressive!"

So what does progressive mean to you? You don't have to follow the path to dressage or extreme cowboy racing, or the pinnacle of performing arts, but you can follow a straightforward plan that suggests that where you are is a stepping stone to where you want to be. So where are you and where do you want to be? What are you capable of? What's next for you?

If your gut level reaction to what's next is, "I don't know," ask again! Then keep asking until your brain lets in some new thoughts that help you make progress.

I want to hear from you. Tell me your name, and tell me about your horse. The rest will happen organically. Don

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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Don Jessop


Don opened up a community, full of people on the same journey you are!
To share LIVE Q&A's and help people and horses transform Confidence.

Don Jessop


Don shares his  passion for writing with his passion for helping horse owners see the horse and themselves for who they truly are.

Don Jessop


Don believes every horse owner should have access to the Principles of Horsemanship and he shares them freely here.

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