The Horse Aunty

The Horse Aunty Sympathetic coaching, specialising in confidence building. Advice and practical on the ground help w I am a sympathetic coach and am happy to help riders improve by looking at the whole picture of horse and rider to optimise the combination by identifying goals and helping you to make a plan to achieve.

BHS Stage 4 SM, Flatwork, Intermediate Teach. First Aid Certificate,and DBS checked. HGV Class 2 and trailer license,
APDT Bronze level Pet Dog Obedience Instructor,
ECDL and Clait Computer Certificates. BIO
I started out as a Saturday girl in a private hunting and pony club yard at the age of 12 until I left school. I then worked in a large riding school and livery yard gaining qu

BHS Stage 4 SM, Flatwork, Intermediate Teach. First Aid Certificate,and DBS checked. HGV Class 2 and trailer license,
APDT Bronze level Pet Dog Obedience Instructor,
ECDL and Clait Computer Certificates. BIO
I started out as a Saturday girl in a private hunting and pony club yard at the age of 12 until I left school. I then worked in a large riding school and livery yard gaining qu

Operating as usual


Timeline photos

Timeline photos

"A great coach is enthusiastic, supportive, knowledgeable and is able to facilitate the positive development of both horse and rider"


What makes a good saddle?
To reiterate from the previous post, long tree points are integral to preventing atrophy and injury to the spinalis, rhomboid and trapezius as their length (combined with correct width and angle) allow the weight to be carried by the longissimus. What happens when the points are too short? The pressure is localized at the end of the points, whether the tree angle and width are correct or not.
Think of the tree as a bridge, and the gullet plate as the supporting structure to prevent it from simply flattening. On either side of the dorsal spinous processes near the withers are the thoracic trapezius, rhomboid, spinalis and deeper in at the juncture of the transverse processes sits the multifidus. This is your "river". Further out you have the superficial muscles such as the latissimus, and underneath is the longissimus. This is your land on either side of your river.
In order to bypass the river, the tree points need to be long enough to extend beyond the river, while also taking into consideration the required space at both the top and sides of the wither with the rider in the saddle.
In the area behind the scapula where a saddle should always be positioned, if the tree points do not extend beyond these muscles you will have most of the pressure land directly on, or at the edge of those non-weight bearing muscles. What does this mean for the horse? Tripping, moving out of the elbow instead of shoulder, reduced forelimb mobility, atrophy behind the scapula (very common to see horses with huge shoulder holes from saddles with short points).
How do you tell how long your saddles tree points are?
Gently bend your panel inward and the wrinkle is where the tree ends. Mark it with chalk or even a piece of tape and place the saddle back on your horse. From the edge of the withers to 4" down, does that wrinkle in the panel fall within those 4" or lower? If they fall within, the tree points are too short.
The key here is length *for the horse*. If you ride a tiny pony, "short" tree points may not be that short for them. Always always always consider your horse first. Their physique will tell you exactly what you need in a saddle.
What sets our certified equine and saddle ergonomists apart is that they don't try and fit the horse to the saddle.
They evaluate the horse and rider, understand the needs set out by the anatomy of that particular animal and human, and then go about finding a suitable saddle based on those requirements.
Many other fitters do it the other way around - fit the horse to the saddle. They find a saddle, and try to fit the horse to it.
Would you buy an insole and then try to fit it to your foot afterwards?
Absolutely not! You would have your foot measured, gait analyzed and posture assessed and THEN find an insole that is suitable to your physique, movement and needs.
Once you understand the difference, saddle fitting becomes a lot clearer.
While it's difficult to get away from the questions like:
"Will this brand fit?"
"How about this model?"
"What do you think about this used saddle?"
When you begin to look to the horse first for your answers, the right saddles will be so much easier to find, without having to spend a not-so-small fortune on 30 different saddles by 40 different reps and fitters.

So pleased to be able to work with lovely horses and people.

So pleased to be able to work with lovely horses and people.


Hard afternoon exam training, rode 3 lovely horses. Nearly there just a little bit of time left to practice.


Does your bridle really fit? This is a great diagram of places to check. These days there are a wide range of anatomical bridles on the market to suit most different head confirmations and different budgets.


Martina Hannover, a product of the German System, tells us:“Riders don’t think enough about having the horse straight. If you don’t have the horse straight you can’t feel the push coming into your hand, sometimes you have to push a little bit more with the left leg, or a little bit more with the right, to get the right feeling in the hand. If riders don’t have the horse straight then they will never get this feeling of the horse being over the back, and that is the most important thing – to make horses go well over the back and allow them to come more under with the hind legs.” “Everybody has to be able to ride with longer reins – does the horse let you sit? Does he accept the leg? That is always the sign that there is something going wrong – if they go against your hand. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have the rein, it’s like a rubber band but you have to learn to control the horse more and more on the outside and not so much hold them on the inside rein.”For More:



Horses are designed for speed. As an animal hunted by predators, they couldn't have survived this long without being fast. So, why do so many horses appear unwilling to go forward, seem ‘lazy’ or stubborn to our leg aids or even sharp spurs?

It is not because they are insensitive - we know every horse can feel a fly land on its coat and flinch to get rid of it. They feel pressure and pain just as we do. Just because the don't cry or scream or moan as we do doesn’t mean they don’t feel or suffer in pain and discomfort.

The reasons are varied, every horse is different. But I think there are some clear patterns to understand. I’m going to list 10 most common things I've noticed in the last 40 odd years of working with horses and riders.

1. THE HORSE CHOOSES THE LESSER OF 2 EVILS: Often due to physical pain or injury, lack of strength or fitness, fear of pain, or memory of pain - the horse learns that NOT going forward (though uncomfortable due to the rider’s leg pressure/spurs or whip) is LESS painful than going forward or staying forward.

2. THE UNBALANCED RIDER GRIPS WITH LEGS AND REINS: The horse has habituated to conflicting relentless or high levels of confusing pressures and has not been able to make the pressure go away by offering an acceptable response. Horses cannot go freely or comfortably forward with an unbalanced or gripping rider.

3. THE RIDER IS AFRAID TO GO FASTER: The horse is confused about how to resolve conflicting pressures when stop and go are asked at the same time. Or the horse is asked to keep going while the rider is at the same time (through fear or inexperience) pulling or holding the horse back, so it actually can’t go freely forward. Something has to give - either stop or go, and often both.

4. THE RIDER HAS A MISGUIDED IDEA OF CONTACT OR 'ROUNDING' THE HORSE: The rider attempts to shorten the neck, hold the horse in a ‘frame’ fixing/blocking the hands (or worse, see-sawing the bit back and forth across the mouth) to force the head down, while at the same time pushing or kicking with the legs and spurs. Again something has to give, the horse cannot bio-mechanically go naturally forward in such a constricted way. Sadly this is way too common and perpetuated with the popularised idea of “driving forward with the legs into restraining hands” It has not been taught to go forward from light aids, to be obedient and reactive to the lightest pressures.

5. THE RIDER APPLIES INEFFECTIVE HALF HALTS TOO OFTEN: Riders are often combining strong hands, legs, seat all at once, over and over and over, when horses are too much on the forehand and travelling down hill, and the rider doesn't know how to lighten the contact or change the horse’s longitudinal balance. Similar to above, the idea of blocking, pushing and pulling at the same time with a false notion of engaging or collecting, serves only to confuse and ‘compress’ the horse and reduce the will to go.

6. THE RIDER DRILLS BORES OR TIRES THE HORSE: If a rider doesn’t allow the horse enough breaks, enough changes in neck position, lengthening the neck, changing the balance, the task, the gait, the tempo, the environment etc. the monotony fails to keep the horse stimulated or motivated to keep trying.

7. THE RIDER OR TRAINER IS NOT ATTENTIVE OR EMPATHIC: Horses have particular ways of dealing with unresolved pressures, confusion or pain. But humans are not good at picking up on these signs. We expect them to complain in some way - as we would. But when they try to communicate - like resisting contact, or not going forward, ‘misbehaving' bracing, feeling tense in their mouth, grinding etc. we often ignore - overlook it or spend up on more restrictive gear to ‘make’ them submit to our desires.

8. THE RIDER'S POSITION SAYS 'DON'T GO': When a rider lounges back in the saddle like its an arm chair, shoves the feet forward or urges and pushes constantly with their seat - totally out of sync and ahead of the horse's movement, with a strange idea that this will somehow help the horse to go ! Uhgg it is so useless, and uncomfortable for the horse to endure. If you have this habit, think for a moment how a jumper or a jockey sit on a horse. Lean forward, this is totally appropriate and necessary when you need to go more. An upright dressage seat is for collection, not to teach a horse to go more forward.

9. A LACK OF APPRECIATION, PRAISE & TACTILE BONDING: I often see a lack praise and positive reinforcement, very little acknowledgement to the horse for 'getting it right', wither scratches, affection, gentle touch and rubs. The rider needs to provide a more encouraging or motivating training environment with adequate physical and mental enrichment for the horse.

10. THE HORSE IS LONELY OR DEPRESSED: Sometimes it can simply be that the horse is unhappy, confined in a solitary paddock or stable, has inadequate grazing and foraging time, or is socially isolated from other horses or animals and generally lacks interest, motivation and enthusiasm.

So basically, pain aside, confusion about contact, about the aids, and about how to make the pressure go away, are I think the biggest issue for horses. Therefore I am saying that in my experience, poor training / rider error is the main reason horses don’t go forward. There is probably nothing more frustrating for a horse than not being able to express its natural paces. Let your horse go. And if it doesn’t want to walk or trot… then ask for canter or gallop, yes... really go... and then same from halt!

The picture here is an old one of Rolly (Romulus) a beautifully bred WB gelding of mine who refused to go freely forward without constant reminding - I am here doing a 'leg lesson' with a soft rein and in a light forward seat - I tried for months and with many instructors at the time suggesting forceful methods. In the end he was vet checked with exrays to find significant fractures in both front fetlocks. There is always a reason for resistance.


The equine thoracic sling is a hot topic at the moment, but what exactly is it and what is all the fuss really about?

Unlike us humans; horses (and many other quadrupeds) lack any bony attachment (collar bone) between the forelegs and the thorax (body). Instead, the thorax is suspended between the forelimbs by a ‘sling’ of muscles, known as the ‘thoracic sling’. Exactly which muscles should be included under this term is an area of some debate. In future articles I will take a more detailed look at the most commonly discussed structures; how they should function to aid efficient and healthy locomotion, and how disfunction may be impacting our horses.

The thoracic sling is made up of various muscle groups, these include:
• Muscles of the chest including deep and superficial pectoral muscles
• Muscles of the shoulder including omotransversarius, subscapularis and subclavian
• Muscles of the ribs including ventral Serratus and latissimus dorsi
• Muscles of the wither and upper neck including rhomboid and trapezius
• Muscles of the lower neck including the brachiocephalic and sternomandibular

When conditioned effectively these muscles enable the horse to elevate the thorax (body) independently within the shoulder girdle. This much coveted phenomenon can make the difference between a horse who appears croup high / ‘on the forehand’, and one who floats effortlessly with their withers and back raised, and freedom through the shoulders.

While for some horses this may seem to come naturally, conditioning of the thoracic sling requires regular activation of the correct muscles. Many horses develop poor or weak posture from a young age, this may be due to conformational weaknesses or injury; but I believe that lack of active engagement of the thoracic sling muscles in daily movement is also a significant factor.

Modern management practices often leave horses stood for prolonged periods in stables or small paddocks, with limited variation of terrane and forage. This can result in horses who no longer use their bodies as nature intended; to balance up and down hills, stretch to reach browse nor walk for vast distances in search of food.

Over time muscles which are not regularly used will weaken and atrophy, resulting in overall postural changes and reduced performance. It is therefore essential that we assess the impact modern husbandry may be having on the development of our horses, and consider the implementation of environmental enrichment where ever possible; as these can have a greatly beneficial impact on long term movement patterns and postural development.

The muscles of the thoracic sling enable the forelimbs to move inwards or outwards from the body, shifting the centre of mass or balance from one forelimb to the other. This allows the horse to turn and manoeuvre efficiently at speed and when effectively conditioned, enables the horse to perform lateral movements from a basic leg yield, to the canter half-pass and pirouette.

In addition, these muscles control the movement of the scapula; both forwards and back, up and down (as well as towards and away from the body), while maintaining the integrity of its connection at the wither, absorbing concussive forces from limb impact and (in the case of the thoracic serratus ventralis) storing and returning elastic energy to aid efficient movement. It is therefore of vital importance that the thoracic sling is able to work effectively; without restriction or discomfort.

Regular assessments from a qualified body worker can help pick up any tension or restrictions which may be occurring through the muscles of the thoracic sling. Addressing issues early on will reduce the risk of injury occurring, and enable the horse to build healthy posture and maintain long term soundness.

Bob says that there is some diary space in October for Coaching, Bit fitting, Clinics and Ground work sessions. Message ...

Bob says that there is some diary space in October for Coaching, Bit fitting, Clinics and Ground work sessions. Message for details.

Wonderful Bitting day with Sherbourne Equestrian, happy horses and riders.

Wonderful Bitting day with Sherbourne Equestrian, happy horses and riders.

Grace's first ride in the school completely off the lead rein with the fabulous Mavis.

Grace's first ride in the school completely off the lead rein with the fabulous Mavis.


Chair Seat

The chair seat is often considered the mark of an inexperienced rider who has not yet mastered the ability to keep their leg beneath them, completely ignoring the simple fact that the leg SHOUDN'T have to be held beneath you to achieve correct alignment. The act of holding one's leg in position removes all fluidity and suppleness required to move with the horse and utilize the seat and leg aids properly. The tension required to constantly hold yourself in a position not only makes the rider a jackhammer in the saddle but decreases stability in the saddle as well while reducing how much and how well they're able to communicate with the horse and feel the subtle ways the horse moves beneath them.

The chair seat is often a symptom of the equipment not fitting the rider and forcing them to shift around to find comfort and support, but also simply pulling the rider into a position that is not conducive to soft and balanced riding.

The key areas that affect rider position are:
Seat Width
Twist (a commonly misunderstood/misidentified part of the saddle)
Waist (also commonly misidentified)
Stirrup bar length & placement
Seat balance
Seat pitch

When any of these areas are not fitted to the rider, consciously or not, the rider will shift to alleviate pressure, find support and find some semblance of balance.

Seat Width - too narrow and the rider will find themselves shifting back to get support beneath their seat bones.

Twist - too wide and the rider feels pulled apart at the hips, routinely shifting back and adjusting their leg to be more in front of them to find some comfort.

Waist - Too narrow and it rubs against the 'underwear line' something that males do not experience.

Stirrup bar - too forward/too short and it pulls the leg in front of the rider.

Seat balance - too far back and the rider feels behind the movement, having to lean forward to stay in balance with the horse.

Seat pitch - if shaped like a roof it will press and impact against the p***c region, forcing the rider to either shift back and away or to tilt the pelvis back, losing the neutral seat.


Why you might want to change your horses bit?


“Never force a stretch” and other range of motion strategies.

Most humans are stiff, compared to gymnasts and other highly flexible athletes. Most horses are equally stiff, because just as most humans do not spend lots of time gradually expanding and extending tight muscles, ligaments and tendons, neither do any horses.

This doesn’t mean that both humans and horses can’t become more supple and elastic, but it does mean that we have to be guided by exercise experts who know how to create those qualities without causing injuries in the process.

Generally, elongating tight body parts has to be done in the smallest increments, over plenty of time. Because I am NOT an exercise physiologist, I will leave it at that, so as not to give bad advice.

I am, however, sure that the sort of instant forcing that many employ with horses goes against any compassionate or orthodox methods.


Try this---

If you can't do it, and if you find it causes discomfort to stretch this far, well, obviously you are being disobedient and need to be strapped into the human equivalent of draw reins or some other type of leverage device, so that your body can be forced into this shape.

Doesn't make any sort of logical sense, does it? Why, then, do humans do it every day to so many horses?

It goes beyond bad horsemanship to force horses by mechanical methods that they are powerless to resist. No wiggling or self justifying needed.


"Don't focus on what has happened, because you can't change that. It is what happens next that counts!"

Mindset is everything you see and it’s easy to worry and fret over things that didn’t go to plan. Playing repeats over and over and in your head about way things turned out.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t change that outcome.

The key to helping you move forward is to try and only focus on what you do next.

And it’s what happens next that really counts.

So if you are having one of those days, breathe and focus on what you can control.

What can you do next to help you move forward?

You have a choice.

Doesn't matter how big or small it is, you have absolute control over your next move.👊


RH12 4QD





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