Here is the fine horseman Warwick Schiller getting ready to laterally flex his horse’s head starting on the ground.  He’s going to slide his hand down the halter rein, and when the horse gives his nose, he will release.  Pretty soon it will look like this, if you release as soon as the horse gives to your suggestion:


The horse should willingly bring his nose and face around in a vertical position.  There are many videos on youtube showing all the steps.  Here’s how it should look, in both directions, before you ever try it from the saddle.  More on this coming soon.

Every Time You Get On Your Horse, You Are Betting Your Life On This One Thing

Picture this:  you are with your horse friends, and it’s a gorgeous day, and a perfect time to head off for a ride.  You know your horse well, and you’ve spent loads of time in the saddle with him.  Fantastic!  Off you go, either in the arena, around the property, or up the trail.

Then it happens.

It’s never happened before.  And whatever it is (an unfamiliar object, shape, light pattern, another horse spooking, you name it), your horse PANICS, or BOLTS, or starts to BUCK.  When this happens, you are betting your life, and your horse’s life, that you can stop him.  You may also be panicking at this point.

This isn’t the time to worry about your brakes.  How do you stop your horse?  YOU CANNOT SUCCESSFULLY STOP A PANICKING HORSE BY PULLING ON HIS MOUTH OR HIS FACE..  In fact, if the horse is really scared, you will only put him in a more collected and powerful frame with which to run off with you.

YOU HAVE TO DISENGAGE THE HINDQUARTERS BY CROSSING THE HIND LEGS OVER WITH AN INDIRECT REIN.  If the hind legs are crossed, the horse can’t run and he can’t buck.

Above is a photo of HQ (hindquarter) disengagement done with the correct technique.  The rider is lifting up on the left rein while using her leg and body to support moving the HQ so that the left hind foot crosses over the right hind foot.  She is looking back at the left HQ, and as her body turns, so does her horse’s.

If this is new to you, I strongly suggest you learn it with your horse and practice it at all speeds, going in both directions.  Get so good at it that when you slide your hand down the rein and begin lifting as you begin to use leg pressure on the HQ that your horse stops without you having to do more.  When you need to use HQ disengagement as an emergency stop, you’ll be much more likely to survive if you’ve practiced and prepared.

I’ll be writing more on setting up the emergency stop in coming posts.  My purpose here is just to let you know just how important this is for your safety.




FEAR PRESSURE and PEER PRESSURE–the roots of ALL horsemanship problems.

No Peer Pressure, No fear Pressure

On the left is my friend Russell Higgins from New Zealand.  I don’t know the exact circumstances regarding this photo, but to me, it looks like horses and humans are relaxed and the relationships between all of them appear calm.

I taught a clinic last summer and one of the things I asked participants to do was to line up stirrup to stirrup in a horseshoe so that I could address them.  I’m always amazed at the fear this can generate.  Why is that?  I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Another common example I see frequently is that, if I’m with a group of clients and we are trying out a new skill (say, simple lead changes), the biggest stumbling block is often the fear of looking stupid or silly, and so I credit the first person to give it a go a lot of credit.

What both of these situations have in common is that they include the universal issues of fear pressure and peer pressure.  When I first started riding my Thoroughbred mare Skigh, I was worried enough that it dawned on me that I couldn’t “hear” anything she was trying to tell me.  I was putting up my own force field of fear which blocked all incoming messages.  The rides would go okay, and from the outside, they probably looked good enough,  but Skigh knew the truth.  She wasn’t getting her message through to me.  We ask our horses to be mentally, emotionally, and physically fit, and we need to ask ourselves to strive for the same things.  What helps me is to consciously relax my butt cheeks and to sing.  Of course, this brings up the other issue–peer pressure.  Won’t people think I’m stupid if I’m up there singing to myself and my horse??  In the end, I’ve decided that I care more about what Skigh thinks than I care about how other people view me.   It took time for Skigh and me to get to know one another, and those techniques helped me get there safely.  She is still very challenging, and I still get scared, but I am confident and competent on her and I can control her.  I made it a priority to put an excellent set of brakes on her and those have been tested!  It came with time, small steps, and SELF-HONESTY.

If you impress your horse, you’ve won something better than any ribbon or recognition.  That’s my view.  If the goal is getting a blue ribbon, or winning money, that’s fine, too.  But those things are meaningless without the relationship being right.

Back to the clinic episode:

  • The fear part:  What if my horse interacts with other horses and I can’t handle it?  What if my horse bites, bucks, or kicks?
  • The peer part:  What if I look stupid or incompetent in front of all these people?

These two issues are often intertwined.  Many people would say, “I didn’t come to this clinic to learn this, I cam here to learn (fill in the blank)”.

My answer would be that (fill in the blank) is all part of horsemanship.  If you can’t safely handle your horse in a variety of situations, let’s fix that before we try to move on to something else.  In this particular situation, my answer would be that horses are gregarious and it’s natural for them to interact.  And, the most important aspect of horsemanship is respect; it’s mutual, but the human must ultimately be the one calling the shots, and the horse needs to know this at all times.  Even in an unfamiliar situation, the horse must respect the leadership that the human needs to be providing.  Finally, one of the biggest keys in all of horsemanship is preparation.  Ray Hunt used to say “confidence is being prepared for the unthinkable”.  So, if there’s a problem anywhere along the line on a daily basis, from trouble catching, or haltering, or leading, or tying your horse, you’ve gotta address those before doing the next thing.

That’s how I see horsemanship.

Here’s how things worked out at the clinic I mentioned:

horses together at clinic.jpg


What I Learned Today: Why Does my Horse Always Spook at the Same Stuff??

April 10, 2018 at 10:30AM

I went for a lovely long ride on Skigh today.  Warm!  This is a photo of one of my new Monel stirrups.  I have wanted a pair of these forever, and now I know why.  My feet were falling asleep in my trusty old leather stirrups, and sometimes they felt a bit tight around my feet if things were getting dicey and I was considering bailing.  Today, my feet felt great after two hours, and I can so easily slip my feet out of them.

Riding Skigh is sometimes like going to a laser show with a kid on a sugar high:  Every little piece of reality is something to look at, to spook at, and for sure, to speed up for.  A truck unloading a bed full of gravel, a blowing tumbleweed–and other stuff she has seen before in exactly the same setting.  So, I made a conscious effort today not to buy into these energy surges, and instead, I got heavier and more relaxed in my seat every time she got distracted.  You can see it was breezy, all the more reason to worry!  My plan was just to walk for 40 minutes, without breaking into a trot or canter, and see if she would relax.  It worked.  It was the conscious adding to my relaxation that did the trick.  Our energy melded and ended on a really nice feeling.

February 18, 2018 at 02:47PM

Get a Spring Tune-Up!

spring tune up.jpg

I’m offering a spring special from now until April 15th.  I’ll spend two hours with you and your horse, evaluating basic safety concerns and making sure your horse is mentally, emotionally, and physically ready for the warm months.

I’m offering this at a big discount of $80 per tune-up.

Spring is the most dangerous time of year for horsemanship for these reasons:

–horses get very frisky in the spring with warm temps and new grass.

–some of us (not you, of course) have spent some serious time binge-watching Netflix and aren’t in summer fitness shape yet.

–during the winter it can be hard to spend quality time with your horse, so it’s time to knock the rust off and get the partnership connected again.

We can do this at your place or mine.  Give me a call (801-865-7196) or shoot me an email peggy@peggygurnetthorsemanship, and let’s get you ready for spring!

Do you know any trainers like this?


About two years ago, I started coaching a young man in his 30’s who had no horse experience but had acquired a nice, small mustang and wanted to get a good start.  He was an excellent athlete in skateboarding and an excellent visual learner, and so he was really fun to teach.

I was on the road and I didn’t see this fellow for a while.  In the interim, he took a clinic with a well-known horseman, and then another one with the same person in the next six months.  Voila, an expert!!

Years back I spent a summer with Pat Parelli in Pagosa Springs.  I emerged a newly-minted expert—an oxymoron if there ever was one.  Some 20 years on, I know a few things but I mostly ask questions and look for answers these days.  I got to a place where I felt really good about my horsemanship and ready to BRING IT to anyone who wanted to watch or listen to me.  I didn’t know how incomplete I was.

One year, on my birthday, I was riding with some riders who were and are extremely well-known in Europe, Australia, and the US.  I was ready to shine!  Before lunch that day, my horse fell with me, but I made a great recovery and neither of us was injured.  Yeah, Baby!  So, riding with one of my heroes in the afternoon, I was bareback and bridleless with that same horse, and my horse did an unexpected flying lead change. I was strained through an electric fence.  My hero rode by and said “how’s your birthday going?’

Now I ride a Thoroughbred who keeps me honest on daily basis and she has an excellent feel for when I’m not bringing my A game to her.  My A game doesn’t involve any pride, I’ve learned.  Now I really DO feel great about my horsemanship much of the time.  Horses provide this feeling with accuracy, something other humans can’t do for me.

I’m attaching an article by Ryan Rose who shares some great insight on this.  Beware those who offer more than they can deliver!

via The Instant Expert Syndrome – Mastery Horsemanship

OK, So I have this horse. Now what? A guide for new horse owners and owners of a new horse.

Horse and computer.jpg

When I bought my first horse, here were my questions:

–does he dig for water?

–what is a halter and how does it work?

–he can eat enough food by himself, right?

You can tell by my questions that I’m the kind of person who likes to jump into things at the deep end, for better or worse.  My horse was in a herd of other friendly horses, and they would run over when someone came into the pasture.  This terrified me at first.  I couldn’t imagine such giants would be timid around a weakling like me.

So, I’ll be working on the nitty-gritty of things, starting with Day One with your horse, and going from there.  My experience is that the little things with horses become the big things.  I won’t make any assumptions about what you know, and there will be things you can pass over if you already know them.

Stay Tuned!



Yep, it’s true: horses can read our facial expressions (and they don’t always like what they see).

horse eye

I encourage everyone to read this good short article in The Atlantic.  I’ve put the link at the end of this post.

The author describes the “unlikely pairing of wily predator and one-ton prey” (must be a REALLY big horse), and I think about this on a daily basis, because it’s the crux of why things do and don’t work with horses.  My horse knows me better than I know myself a lot of the time.  And I try to see the world through her eyes.  NOTHING a horse ever does is wrong–their behaviors are a consequence of innate characteristics along with environment.  We program so many undesirable patterns into our horses (e.g., jigging on a trail ride, or fighting the bit, or refusing to go, or refusing to stop)–and then we get mad at them for doing these things that we created.  Just look around next time you’re at your barn, or wherever you ride, and you’ll see what I mean.

The article talks about horse vision.  Did you know that horses can see much better than dogs can, except for the blind spots caused by their eye position?  And the thing I found most interesting is that when confronted by a human with an angry face, horses will look at that person out of their left eye, thus engaging the right side of their brain, the side where fear-provoking stimulus is processed.  Dogs do this, too.  So, the common vernacular “going right-brained” has some scientific backup to it.

I’m going to start keeping tabs with my own horse on her reactions related to this stuff.

It’s a good read.

via:  https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/02/how-horses-read-human-emotions/471264/?utm_source=atlfb


heart horse clip.jpg



Today is a day to celebrate our sweet connections–not necessarily just the romantic ones.  There are all sorts of studies out there considering whether horses feel “love”.  I know for sure that there is an affinity between me and my horse.  Is it love?  Who cares?

So much of how we experience our lives involves projecting our feelings on others around us, whether those individuals are human or animal.  As a happy person vents their joy and love onto their horse, so does an angry person, or sad person, vent those feelings in the same way.  It takes emotional fitness to come and ride after a bad day without taking our frustration out on our horses.  I really try to find solace and peace in the presence of my horse after a difficult day.

I used to think that my horse and I would be together in some dreamy way with violin music playing in the background.  That was my dream.  And that does happen sometimes.

At those times, she looks like this:

horse in flowers .


What also happens is that she will be frisky, and pushy, and test my leadership–when all I wanted was a Hallmark card moment.

So, sometimes. she greets me looking kind of like this:                        charging horse









The best thing that can happen on those bad days is for me to get out of myself and start thinking about how I can best be with someone else (horse or human), and how I can offer something useful.

We can only get the horse to sync with us in attitude and energy by getting in sync with them first.  We must match and mirror their energy as necessary to bring them around to where we need to be.

Happy V Day.




Watch Zenyatta and Get Jazzed on Life!


I know I need to have plenty of inspiration to show me what’s possible!  I have a love affair with Thoroughbreds, and the mare Zenyatta especially rocks my world.  Below is her legendary run in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup, which she won at age 5.

I hate the inherent cruelty in horse racing.  These immature horses are often looked at as dollar signs sporting a mane and tail, rather than as the amazing animals that inhabit many of our lives.  That said, her trainer John Shirreffs didn’t race her until she grew into herself a bit, and while that still isn’t enough, it’s commendable.  That said, the beauty of the horses mesmerizes and energizes me.

So, spend a few minutes and get jacked up about life!