Safe and Sound: Why You Should Practice Emergency Dismounts

There are times when being able to get off quickly can save you from serious injury, maybe even save your life.  Here’s one:

I was on a trail ride with a couple of friends, on Pride, one of my students’ horses who had always been trouble free.  We had had a good ride, and stopped at an intersection in the trail to decide whether we would go on a little further, or take the trail home. Pride was more or less facing down the home trail when, I suspect, he picked up sounds from the barn, about a mile away, indicating that feeding was starting.  Anyway, one second I was sitting there with the reins loose, the next second he started to take off as though he were at the starting gate at the Cheltenham Festival.

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The Most Important Part of Riding

Gincy Self Bucklin head shotIf you’ve read any of my books, you know I consider the most important part of riding to be having a good relationship with the horse, a relationship based on mutual caring, trust and respect.

I’m not the only one that thinks this way, and not just about riding. Not long ago I was watching Fareed Zakaria on CNN interviewing former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill about his time as the chief of Alcoa aluminum. O’Neill had come into the job at Alcoa with no experience in the metal industry.

At the time he took over, Alcoa was kind of trudging along, not doing badly, but not doing great either.  Their safety record was one of the better things they did, industry wide. They had just under 2 injuries per 100 workers that caused the worker to miss a day of work, as opposed to a national average of 5 injuries per 100.

So what did he do first? He said, “We’re going to concentrate on safety. People who work at Alcoa should never be hurt at work. One per hundred is one too many. We should have zero injuries.”  Continue reading

Happy 80th Birthday, Gincy!

Gincy, age 2, and her siblings, 1935.

Gincy teaching in Vermont, 2009

Gincy Self Bucklin was born 80 years ago today, in a 200-year-old colonial farmhouse in New Canaan, Connecticut. Here’s a short list of her accomplishments so far:

  • 68 years of teaching riding to students of all ages.
  • 30+ years of operating riding schools, including New Canaan Mounted Troop (founded by her mother, Margaret Cabell Self), The Wilton Riding Club, and Lion Hill Farm, which she founded in 1978
  • 3 published books and a 4th due out in 2013
  • Hundreds of column inches of articles and columns in newspapers and horse magazines, including her current column in Riding Instructor
  • Riding With Confidence, a Yahoo discussion group with almost 900 members, especially for horse lovers learning to deal with fear
  • What Your Horse Wants, her life’s work – an innovative and in-depth approach to riding instruction, that teaches people to ride in a way which is kind and helpful to the horse, and which develops the partnership that all horse lovers want to have with their horses.
  • Plus 2 children, 6 stepchildren, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and countless horses, dogs and cats.

Happy Birthday, Gincy!


Photo Shoot for Gincy’s New Book

Last weekend the WYHW team got together in Putney, VT, with Human Kinetics photographer Neil Bernstein (amazing professional and all around nice guy) plus a small group of dedicated volunteer riders and grooms (thank you all so much!) to shoot the photographs that will illustrate Gincy’s next book, due out in the spring. Here are a few behind the scenes shots from the weekend.

shooting western riding photos for book by Gincy Self Bunker

Setting up a western riding series. Left to right: Boomerang (bombproof equine model), instructor Kim Mastrianni (back to camera), model Stella Silverman, instructors Caryl Richardson & Meg Kluge, Gincy, photographer Neil Bernstein

The location is Caryl Richardson’s barn and ring in Putney. We did 260 shots in 3 days – each shot requiring multiple takes, plus different horses, equipment, riders and locations. To get the perfect photo for each shot could take less than a minute, or almost an hour! Continue reading

Olympians Prove Riding is for All Ages

We have lots of news and riding tips to post, but this Olympic weekend, we can’t resist sharing two Olympic profiles. The oldest Olympian and the most experienced Olympian in competition this year are both equestrians.

Japanese dressage competitor Hiroshi Hoketsu is the oldest competitor in London, at the young (for a rider) age of 71. Read about him here.

Canadian jumper Ian Millar is breaking an Olympic record. This is his 10th Olympics, more than any other competitor in history. He first rode for Canada in 1972! Read about him on Yahoo; and on NBC; and on

And if you’re looking forward to riding for the rest of your life, you will especially like Millar’s comment about his chances of medaling this year:

“I have so much more experience, so much more knowledge and my capabilities are so much higher. Therefore, my chances of success are way greater.”

Ride on!

Presenting Our New Logo

What Your Horse Wants logoWe are proud to unveil the new logo for What Your Horse Wants. Our colors reflect the tranquility of the natural world; and for our two capital W’s, we chose an old-fashioned W made of 2 interlinked V’s, to represent the partnership of horse and rider.

The design is the work of designer, artist, writer, and fellow horsewoman Liz McDonald of Mistress Pixel in Rhode Island. We think she did a fabulous job!

Liz went the extra lap around the course, and gave us a second, horizontal version of the design, for use any time the square logo won’t fit. Pretty nice!

WHYW horizontal logo

We’ll be using these designs not only on the web site, advertising and the usual places, but also on any equipment WYHW develops for sale, such as the neckstrap breastplates featured in last week’s post.

Centered Riding Features Gincy’s Neckstrap Breastplate

Gincy participated in a Centered Riding Instructor Development Day in Connecticut in January, and made quite an impression on at least one fellow instructor.  Last month, CR’s News section posted this article called “An Intriguing Piece of Equipment.” Here’s a short excerpt:

” Enter Gincy Bucklin and her western breast plate neck strap.  This wonderful invention offers the rider a sense of security and balance (by having something to hold on to) as well as enabling the rider to develop a sense of following with the hands and staying supple through the arms all at the same time.  This is the combination we have been looking for.”

The article then goes on to a long, enthusiastic write-up of one of Gincy’s signature pieces of instruction technology, the breastplate neckstrap. Read on and let us know what you think.

And you might like to know that we are now actively pursuing the manufacture of our own WYHW breastplate neckstraps. Watch the blog for news.

UPDATE, 3-19-2013.  We expect to start production this year!

Leg Aids that Help Your Horse

“If you’re not supposed to squeeze with your calves, how do you use your leg?”

This question comes, like so many good ones, from my Riding With Confidence egroup. Here’s my response:

I learned this from Nuno Oliveira many years ago, and it was one of the major learning moments of my career.

When you squeeze, it creates tension that prevents the horse from going forward easily. He may move because he’s tense, but it’s not what you want. Same with leaning forward. He may move to catch his balance, but it isn’t correct.

If possible, read either HYHW or MHYHW on leg aids to understand this better.

You use your legs either tapping or rubbing forward. Tapping gets increased impulsion, rubbing gets increased engagement. Continue reading

Why Won’t My Horse Do What I’m Asking?

This is something that happens to all of us, and not just with horses. You ask for something, and get either a ‘no’ answer, or a reluctant response. And frequently our reaction is, “He’s lazy,” or “He’s bad,” or “He’s just pulling my chain.”

These are rarely the correct answers. As they say, “If you’re getting the wrong answer, you’re either asking the wrong question, or asking the question wrong.” I think that is one of the most profound sayings I know.

Some examples of asking the wrong question: maybe you’re asking the horse to do something that he doesn’t feel ready for, or maybe your horse hurts sometimes, or doesn’t feel well. (Nothing makes you feel worse than forcing a horse to do something, and finding out later that he was sick!) Continue reading

Gincy Talks At Hearts & Horses, ME

Gincy was the lunch speaker today at Hearts & Horses Therapeutic Riding Center, Buxton, ME, during their annual Centered Riding Instructor  Update Clinic. She spoke to the attending instructors on “Teaching Beginners” and reports that the audience gave her a very positive response, and bought ALL the books she took along with her. They even cleaned her out of her own sample copies! The clinic was given by Susan Harris, who is also a big booster of How Horses Want You To Teach.

Gincy says, “I am very excited about the response our program is getting from complete strangers.”