The Newest:

How do you cope with a hot horse and a not – very – sensitive rider?

BILL— it’s a tough combination, and we can only hope that the rider has a lot of patience and does not have unrealistic expectations of how quickly things can be fixed. A lot of riders who get in this situation do so because they don’t realize how complicated the relationship they need to build with their horse and the sophistication of the aids that they need to do that are way beyond what they are used to.

There are a few ways to look at this. The rider needs to discover the co-ordinations between and among all the aids. She needs to learn that asking is not the same as getting an answer, and that she can exert a wide variety of pressures and tempos of her aids which will produce different results. She needs to learn that there are a lot of additional responsibilities to attend to without getting hype-focused on just one. But most important of all (with her instructor’s help) she needs to recognize when something good happens and be able to reward it by softening.

Probably the best advice is to finagle a way to get her onto an easier horse— even for a ride or two— where her aids will be more likely to produce the right results. Then she will at least know what she’s looking for as she tries to decipher her regular situation.

(Originally published in March of 2013)

How can I gain my horse’s trust?

BILL–This is a tough one. Unequivocal, irrevocable trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. Once lost, it’s even harder to gain back. Having said that, we need to stop and define exactly what we’re looking for from our horses. I am the first to admit that, while I believe I relate well to the horses I work with, none of them are about to jump off the Steel Pier at Atlantic City with me nor am I about to go galloping (or even walking down the road) with them with no bridle or halter and lead rope for control. A few people can do that with their horses and more power to them, but that’s not particularly my interest,
and I’m happily frying other fish.

First of all, recognize that horses are individuals with a great range of temperaments. What one horse will trustingly permit, another may think is the craziest, most threatening thing he’s ever seen. Before you can realistically expect your horse to believe in you, you have to make an accurate assessment of how he’s reacting or
relating to the task or the situation you’ve put him in. Figure out how to think as he does.

Don’t read human emotions and rationality into his behaviors. He won’t trust you if what you’re asking isn’t worthy of trust.
The following may sound so obvious that it doesn’t need to be stated, but I can’t help myself: if you want your horse to trust you, don’t lie to him. You don’t need to try to buy his friendship with treats. Positive reinforcement is certainly a good thing. But in
nature, horses scold each other. It’s OK to correct him, even punish him—if your action is immediate and appropriate. But if you intermittently punish him for a particular transgression while other times ignoring it or laughing about it, you won’t be making sense to him. Horses, more than almost anything, understand and appreciate
consistency. Be clear, be consistent. He’ll respect you, and if you do it correctly, it won’t interfere with the relationship you’re trying to build.

Also, don’t surprise him! Picture an old hound dog snoring by the hearth on a rug. Sneak up and pull that rug out from under him a few times, and don’t expect him to find much comfort and solace there!
More than anything, this whole process requires patience. Not patience until you get impatient. Endless, eternal patience. (See comment on Consistency above).

Also, be aware that “trust” comes in many categories of behaviors. One is not necessarily transferable to the next. He may trust your hands around his ears; he may totally distrust you approaching him with a syringe. Or he may trust you with the syringe yet turn violent if it’s carried into his stall by The Hated Vet. Trust on the ground working around him, trust schooling him in hand won’t necessarily equate to trusting you if you want to canter to the Liverpool (or perhaps past the cows). Don’t be shocked by any of this. Lest you forget, he’s a horse!

When things break down, a good phrase to remember: “He didn’t do it on purpose.” Yes, there are exceptions—the bratty horse that does try to step on your foot—but in the main, horses do what they do, reacting many times instinctually and not having read the part that you are supposed to be the center of their universe. Get used
to it. It makes being patient a lot easier!

And finally, I refer you to my favorite Uncle Ronnie line. As the Great
Communicator warned us, “Trust but verify.” I love my horse to death, and I have great respect for many of the other ones I work with. But at one subsurface level I try always to be vigilant. I try to “read” my horse’s body language and anticipate how he’ll react and
what he might do before he ever does it. This applies both on the ground and when I’m riding. Treating your horse this way makes it much more likely that your reactions to him will be . . . honest, consistent, and patient . . . which will feed right back into building the trust you want him to have in you.




BILL’s On-Line Store — STORECRAZY — is here to provide you with items that Dover and John Nunn can’t offer. Here’s a quick sample.

CLICK HERE to find many more items you won’t want to live without!

When all else fails, go to the mirror! But regardless, DO pay attention to the man behind the curtain.


             Of Guts, Gumption, and Perspective

At the Grand Oaks show (Marion County, FL) a para rider in a freestyle test lost her balance and fell from her horse. The EMT was summoned  as she lay on her back in the dirt. Apparently he was a new guy who had never worked a show before. Parking his emergency vehicle in the arena beside the fallen rider, he leaned over her to see how she was.
She looked up into his eyes and informed him, “I can’t feel my legs.” The EMT turned ashen, no doubt thinking “My God, I need more help here.” Until the victim giggled and added “But it’s OK, I never can!”

True story!

[A Note from Bill]

Let me introduce our Associate Editor, Hayden Finch. “Sidd” worked with us back in the ’80s when Susan and I edited A Tip of the Hat, the New England Dressage Association’s newsletter. Prior to beginning his career in journalism, Sidd scratched his competitive itch with a brief foray into professional baseball. In his first stint with us, Sidd penned this alternative biographical sketch of me for the Dallas Dressage Club newsletter publicizing a clinic I did for that group:

Bill’s bio courtesy of Sidd Finch

            Bill Woods (not his real name) comes to the Dallas area several times a year. He and his wife, Onyx, are members of the Federal Dressage Witness Protection Program; thus, their true place of residence is unknown. Both train and compete most of the year in central Florida, often in disguise.             Bill has been teaching in Texas since the mid ‘80s, having been brought here by Lisa Brown.They had met in New Hampshire some years before, drawn together by a mutual love of hybrid roses which they tended on summer afternoons at the institution.    



If any of the following snippets pique your curiosity, you can find the story archived on this site. It’s DRESSAGE Unscrambled, with a twist—it’s free! More than two dozen dozen (more than 330) posts accessed by this click.

Remember Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich in the victory lap after their gold medal win at the ’84 LA Olympics? All those 76 one tempis in a row?  Well, for old time’s sake, click here for the instant replay!

The Horse Protection Association of Florida needs your help!

HPAF receives no state or federal funding and exists only through donations. The amount of neglected horses and horses whose owners can no longer afford to feed them has exploded recently and your donations make it possible for HPAF to continue the work of protecting and saving horses.


Quote of the Month

“We are all time travelers — just the really dull kind — ones plodding through the 4th dimension one pathetic second at a time.” (Robert Smith on NPR’s Talk of the Nation)

Quote of All Time

“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang onto, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.” Chögyam Trungpa

Click to view an important cultural icon: “Bambi Meets Godzilla”


An audio treat for your dining and dancing pleasure? CLICK HERE

FEAST YOUR EYES ON THIS — A FANCIFUL VIDEO MONTAGE TO LEONARD COHEN’S “DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE.” The tango sequence is from the 1992 film Scent  of a Woman.

For the One Minute Version of everything you need to know about – CLICK HERE



Chris Hadfield performs Space Oddity from the ISS 

CLICK HERE for a selection from Bill’s Photoshop endeavors
Below: To imprint in your mind. Harmony in the person of Col.  Kurt Albrecht von Ziegner. His mount unknown.

Carl Sagan speaks of The Pale Blue Dot. Please click below and watch this!

It’s another Monday!

If the last total eclipse of the sun worked for you (or if you were indoors at the movies), there’s a second showing. The date will be April 8, 2024. Visible in the US on a swath from Texas through parts of the Midwest to Buffalo. I am not going to miss it!


TUNY [photo], the French Bulldog , sadly crossed the rainbow bridge. Her position as the official Safety Coordinator of this website has been passed along to Alan, the new Frenchie puppy. He has been getting up to speed on the Manual. If as you’re reading, he issues the “Duck and Cover” instruction, please climb under your desk and assume the position until he issues her All Clear announcement.

While Alan [below] may appear to be very youthful for these responsibilities, he has assumed the mantle and hopes to grow old as he carries out his duties.