A review from Horses All Magazine

I just thought I'd share with everyone this review of my FDT I Instructor videos from Horses All Magazine and Carol Upton.
"Farah DeJohnette Instructional Horse Training Videos
2009-2010, starting at $1.99 ea. to download Available at:
Reviewed by Carol M. Upton
“In the end, horses have been the greatest trainers I’ve ever had. In fact, most of the things I learned about life, I learned in the presence of a horse.”
— Farah DeJohnette
Farah DeJohnette has an approach, which she calls “integrative horsemanship,” a blend of natural horsemanship, dressage foundation training and balanced seat riding. DeJohnette’s methods encourage the horse to follow the trainer with mind and heart. She offers riding and training instruction in person and now through a new concept — downloadable, on-demand videos specific to the rider’s needs. Take these short lessons along to the barn on a phone or ipod and discover how everything you do with your horse can flow more easily.
The Yield of Forequarters video I chose to view first is an excellent one for use with all horses, but particularly in dressage and reining. DeJohnette teaches the execution of a relaxed pivot. Using basic, practical language, she discusses building competency with each exercise to progress to the desired result.
Steering Techniques to Harmonize with Your Horse provides a lesson on the use of your core and eyes to “steer from your body” and assist your horse in balanced turns. Exercises are kept simple, with clear instructions on when to use aids to augment the bodywork.
The third video I looked at was Neck Strap Exercise, more advanced for the rider who is teaching collection and preparing for bridleless riding. DeJohnette recommends having a good foundation in liberty work before proceeding to this training, which involves a series of walk-halts, so that the horse learns to follow the rider’s body.
These videos offer a unique, eco-friendly way for equestrians to choose particular topics from an extensive list that includes liberty, ground training and jumping. They are perfect tools for those who wish to extend their learning beyond lessons they are taking or who cannot readily access a trainer.
Farah DeJohnette’s talent in over 20 years of competitive horse training makes her a uniquely skilled trainer. She offers lessons,
training, virtual coaching, videos and bitless bridles at"


Positive Reinforcement

As I have come to work with some challenging horses and with the wisdom of time and experience, I have come shape my training around Positive Reinforcement.

What is Positive Reinforcement? It can be Verbal, Physical, Food, or allowing the horse to do something he wants to do. If I have a horse that may have some undersireable behavior I basically ignore it and focus on the rewarding the behavior I do like and build up from there. We tend to fixate on the "Bad" behavior and correcting it instead of teaching the horse a new pattern.

For example, if a horse is rude around food I would not correct him or yell at him for being pushy and aggressive. I would think of what I might like the horse to do instead and set about showing him how to do that and then rewarding the positive change. So I might say to the horse with my body language or even a stick, "could you move back over there about 5-6 steps and "whoa"? The horse may need to be requested several times to stay back and wait, but I will just keep asking politely until he says "ok" by standing and giving me eye contact. At that point I will give him the precious food he so much wanted and we will have had a conversation about how I'd like him to conduct himself around me and food. Ultimately respect my leadership and safety and I will be more then happy to give him what he wants. Leadership is  balance thing.

If we are Ogres and control freaks all the time, the horse will run the other way when we come to the pasture. On the other hand if we are push overs, we can get hurt and frustrated because our horse out ranks us.
We need to focus on consistent positive, behavior patterns and keep working with them daily.

When I have worked with difficult horses, I find as long as I can get them to honor my personal space, we can start to have a conversation about what might be a better way to work together. I don't really care if a horse is a bucker, rearer,striker or kicker. None of these things can hurt me if the horse is not in my personal space. So if I have this horse and he is upset or even aggressive, we have to learn how to be in a space and respect each other. If I feel safe I can let the horse express his opinions freely until he feels heard and then he will probably listen to me. A lot of times a horse wants us to just listen. Like a person who's upset.This horse often stops protesting when he sees I am not going to make a request until he shows me his softer side. Also, by not trying to control the "bad" behavior it often diffuses itself and fizzles out. If you don't feed that energy, it goes hungry.  Same with fear and spookiness.

Some horses seek negative reinforcement just as much as positive because they are smart and it has gotten a rise out of the human. It can become a game that you don't even know you are playing. If I ignore this game and then see some behavior I like, I will go and Positively Reinforce it. The horse learns the "negative" behavior goes un-noticed and loses interest in doing it anymore. I have found this way of training has garnered me much more success then chasing horses around pens and "Dominating" them. This is not to say a horse doesn't need leadership and to respect you. It is to say that we can do it in a Positive way and keep a nice relaxed, harmonious connection even when there is a lot of energy to deal with.



I am frequently asked to address Focus issues in horses my own included. The funny part is often the people state they too have trouble focusing...Interesting. I often am asked to deal with Fear issues in horses and surprise! The owners are fearful too!. So what's the point here? Well if our goal is to be a good leader to our horse and garner our horses respect and bond to us, The work starts with us. The reason the horses improve when I work with them is because I give them 100% focus and I am generally not afraid because I don't put myself in positions which scare me. People say to me "Farah you never seem afraid even working with so called "dangerous" horses" And that's because I know what steps or exercises I need to do for myself to feel safe, Then as a natural result I am not afraid. You notice how I said I do things with the horse to help me feel not afraid not the horse feel not afraid because as a result the horse gets more focused and less afraid.
Your horse requires 100% of your attention if you expect his. Some methods rely on the horse having to pay attention, regardless of if we are or not. This doesn't seem fair to me. If a student is in a class room and the teacher is off in La La land. That class is going to find other ways to entertain themselves good or bad. They are also going to resent and not respect that teacher too much.
If you and your horse are completely focused on each other as much of the time as possible, the communication should be more effortless and as a result you should pick up on subtle cues that your horse may be getting nervous about something. Then you can take measures to prevent a spook or redirect your horses energy somewhere else.
I feel that a lot of accidents are a result of lack of focus and awareness in the horse and rider.
So try this exercise if you feel you have an unfocused or spooky horse. Take measure to make yourself feel safe, and spend a whole session completely focused on what your are doing and who you are doing it with. Let me know how it goes in the comments section!


Dressage as meditation

What if when we rode it was a meditation practice as well as a ride. Meditation by it's definition is the clear focus on one particular thing. It is the absence of cluttered thought and detachment from the moment. It is total present mindedness and total awareness and respect for the connection between you and the horse the entire time you are together. This is easier said then done for a lot of us so it should be part of a practice for us as much as we practice other things.
Ask yourself if you are with your horse when working together or in your head. Are you obsessing about meaningless perfection details or staying in a slow calm flow even when doing faster exercises. Slowing down is an excellent way to stay in an aware and present state with your horse. Doing relaxing interesting patterns with a focus on the exercises and it end results not the "issues" you feel as you do it. Focusing on your BREATH and keeping it regular and calm is an excellent way not only to meditate in an aware state with you horse but also to connect, relax and calm both of you. Any adjustments you want to make in the horse should be done peacefully, calmly and quietly with a feel for not disturbing the connection. This doesn't mean you can't be firm it just means it's slow, calm and patient with a pause for you both to contemplate afterward for a moment before moving on. When working with a particular Method or school of thought, do not get caught up in the technique above your meditation and connection with your horse. Staying in the moment and flow with your horse will allow you to have great moments together. As a competitive rider, it is important to keep this practice at the top of your priorities if you are going to keep yourself and your horse in a state of happiness in your work together. So take breath and relax the next time you ride and just "be" together whatever you do....Namaste