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Life List for Training Horses and Riders

"The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking."
—John Kenneth Galbraith

At Osierlea, we apply the following list to both horses and riders throughout each lesson. Riding with this list always in mind creates clarity for the horse and often shows that resistance is actually confusion.

Eleanor Johnson and Max (Halflinger) Riding FEIEllie Brown and Max (Halflinger) Riding FEI

We need to take into account the nature of the horse.  He is a linear thinker, so we must be able to operate that way – by list making.  List-making helps us cut thru the “hi-falutin’ babble and get to work.  We start with a “Life List” for training and teaching.  It is our starting point and our ‘go to’ place throughout the training to regain focus and stay on point:


What is going on?  How is the horse influencing me?  How am I influencing the horse (for better or for worse)?  What needs changing?


What is the horse making of this?  What can I do/learn from his reactions?  Empathy is “the projection of one’s own personality into the personality of another, in order to understand him better”

Separation of Issues

‘Dealing with everything at once’ is a muddling undertaking for both horse and rider.  Each task should be divided into as many component parts as possible and each element should be addressed separately.

Prioritization of Issues

Once the exercise is broken down into its component elements, they need to be put into a sub-list with the most important three or four issues at the top.  It’s impossible to keep 40 components in mind and stay focused.

Slow Time Down (no it doesn’t mean a slow pace)

Slow our brain and that of the horse and the student, to the point that we can think, serenely, rather than rushing from aid to aid or issue to issue.

Expectation (short term & long term)

Short term – How is he likely to respond if do this? Non response? Wrong response?
Long Term – How we hope it will turn out long-term


Horses are creatures of habit.   They don’t learn by doing something right once, perhaps by chance.  It can only be turned into a learning situation if we do things in the same way every time - consistently.

When we get ‘stuck,’ bewildered, are out of ideas or need inspiration, we go first to this list – the Bible.