Training and Lessons

The rate for our training and lessons depends on the level and needs of the client.  Typically, a basic lesson/ trailride cost $40 and may last from one to two hours with work both in and outside the ring.  For specific problems, a plan of action will be decided upon and the cost can be discussed to reflect that plan.  We do not just have the student come get on the horse for a lesson but they learn all aspects of being a horseman, from grooming to washing..

Want to learn the basics or fix problems. Does your horse pull you by the lead, not standing still while you mount, or jigging to the front when riding with a group.  Learn how to teach him to ride on a loose rein.  Learn to ride off your seat and legs in a traditional centered balanced style.

 Those who know me know, at times, I ride wild near uncontrollable horses. These are often horses given to me because they have a problem rather than one's I've had the luxury to train myself. Given the nature of my role as huntsman in previous hunts, these horses have to go and do a job as best they can at that moment.  Like most people in the field, its not time for training while hunting, but little bits can be taught while hunting that they begin to learn from.  Given some time, even those wild horses are opening gates and riding on a loose rein.  

Our Philosophy in horses and riding

“ There are no problem horses only problem riders”  I once saw this book title and thought this is so true.  It is so often the people that cause the problems in horses.  A young green horse is so much easier to teach than one who has been messed up by people.  Then the question becomes is it worth it, is it cost effective to fix those problems. In most cases yes, but that is a question for the owner to answer. The horse may be fixed but does that owner have the ability and skill level to keep the fix in place.  Sometimes it requires a change in the rider’s whole approach to horses.  Sometimes the owner is be better served by getting a horse that better suits them.  Though we all know those folks who’s eyes over reach their abilities, though never to admit such.

At Valhalla Stables many of our training techniques come from the modern horse communicators and trainers who have, of late, brought their styles into the public eye.  Although with our interest in history we also found a wealth of knowledge in the works of the master’s of previous centuries and those who revive them.  Masters such as Francois Baucher, Lewis Nolan,  and Jean-Claude Racinet.  Interestingly enough, these two very different groups have many similarities, one being their basic quest for lightness.

 We train on release and ride for balance and lightness.  Athletically, a  horse can do anything.  We just have to teach him to do it with the weight of the rider and the rider’s cue.  In a word relationship, they have to understand each other’s language, and move together to create that hybrid of Horse and Man. 

We employ the centered, balanced,  the traditional seat.  This seat has been in use for centuries, seen in classical paintings, described in cavalry manuals, and noted by masters.  The seat one would use when not using a saddle at all but riding bareback.  To the un-educated eye, it might appear as if one just sits on the horse but to the contrary.  It is movement with the horse’s movement.  It is being in rhythm with the horse.  For example, in Jumping, when the horse rises, you rise forward.  When coming down you are going back, sliding lightly into the saddle, and shining the saddle with your seat.  Not simply flopping down but rotating your hips into the seat and back into rhythm of the horse.  All the while releasing the reins and hence, the head for free movement.  For another example, the same concept can be used with a creek crossing, the up and down motion.  We do not endorse the forward seat.   Developed by Caprilli in the early 20th century (and led to his demise), it was developed for beginners in the ring.  It is easier to teach the beginner in this seat, (stand in stirrups , lean forward, contact on the reins) than it is to teach traditional rhythm and movement to those who have no experience with such. Probably the same reason it is seen so often being used these days… as well as a little myopic vision from modern trainers.  The forward seat is all many have ever seen, especially at English shows.   It works fine for shows but has serious flaws in the real world where the ground is not all flat and fenced in.  Showing was meant to be the icing on the cake not the cake itself.  The cake is the real world where horses work in a variety of terrain and disciplines.

Environment!  It’s not just the training but the how the horse lives that adds to his mental well-being and his function.  By letting a horse go out and be a horse, many a hard case has come around.  Many a horse came to us with warnings of, “be careful” but over time that changed.  Our idea of turn out is not daily in and out of a stall and paddock, nor is it the horse’s.  That is what man does, not nature.  Our idea of turnout is 50 acres of rolling broken terrain and a herd to go with, as nature intended.  It does wonders for their psyche!  Most problem horses get problems because people over manage them.  Horses do not think like people so don’t think for them, let them be horses!  That is not to say we don’t use our stalls, we do, but as little as possible.

Lastly, in regards to the functioning horse, over time most horses can be useful.  In communication with the horse it is not always what the horse wants but what he understands.  I’ve heard it aptly put, “first I’m going to suggest, then I’m going to ask, and then I’m going to tell.”  With enough training, one shouldn’t have to go past suggesting.



I usually don’t say there are any no no’s, as everything has a purpose or can be worked out of, but in these cases I don’t.  Furthermore they have become such common place that I actually think it is hurting horses.

Ace.  What can one say to someone who feels it’s ok to drug horses.  We abhor the use of ace.  Ace does not take the place of training nor should it be used as a crutch if you feel over mounted!  A horse when participating in any sport should have all their facilities about them.  Horses do not learn when drugged.  Get more training or get a horse that better suits you.  It's a free country but I feel someone needs to speak up about this disturbing trend to make the regular drugging horses acceptable.  

Standing Martingales/ tie downs.  A useless item for teaching the horse and even considered dangerous when in use.  I’ve yet to see any reference to this item before the late 19th early 20th century when it became en vogue.  It is banned from eventing , and other high level competitions.  It should be from foxhunting as well but for the MFHA.  The guidelines set about by the MFHA, and some hunts, emulate what was en vogue at the moment of that association's creation, the early 20th century...  Hence the dress and in this case an item of tack.  While some frown upon the running martingale, it should be vice versa.  As a training aid, the running martingale reflects the pressure and release philosophy and can be useful.  The hands control it, when the horse lifts his head beyond the desired position he feels the pressure in his mouth.  To relieve the pressure, the head must come back down. The horse learns a head set by finding the position  where there is no pressure. (The same can be done without any martingale and with educated hands.)  The standing does none of this, it simply controls the nose, some horses learn to brace against it.  It restricts the free movement of the horse’s head when he may need it the most.  A horse does use the weight of his head for balance, the standing can hinder that.  Contrary to the standing, if you release your hands, the running martingale no longer has any effect what so ever.  Where a standing becomes dangerous is in two places.  If a  horse goes down, he may be unable to get his head out of the way and suffer a broken neck.  Next, this goes without saying however in this day and age of the unaware passenger it must be reminded,  if you go in deep water they will drown if they cannot get their head up. Duh.


Do do’s

Lateral flexions- I can’t praise this enough.  This is the greatest training aid I’ve found in 20 years.  If you don’t know what this is then you haven’t watched horse TV on RFD-TV.  Just about every horse trainer is using it.  Not only does It teach lateral flexion and suppleness it helps with vertical suppleness as well.  Lightness, over all body suppleness, and then on top of that it has a tremendous calming effect on the horse’s mind.  Tell me what “get them on the bit“ exercise does all that!

            Single rein stops- This goes hand in hand with lateral flexions. Can’t really do one without the other.  If your horse is heavy on your hands try stopping him every time for a week with only one rein.  No horse will run away with you either.  Things will change.

            Back up- Every time you stop your horse back up.  No, I’m not saying to do this in traffic but when training your horse.  What this does is helps with collection, using the rear end, and lightness.  If you stop and back, the horse is gong to start expecting it.  He will be collecting for it, and pretty soon you won't have to pick up the reins but just sit back for a stop, and he’ll get that hind end under him.

            Ride long, you'll ride a long time-is the old saying. more leg means more control and stability.  Even the old steeplechase trainers use this saying.  A former member of the household cavalry once told me, " the stirrup is just to make the foot look pretty".