The Harmonious Horse & Rider

The Harmonious Horse & Rider offer information and solutions to feel empowered to make positive changes



1. Don't annoy the horse
2. Ride the horse you are on and not the one you think you are on
3. When something does not work... Stop doing it
4. With a horse, like in dating... Consent is required
5. If the horse does not want to be with you, there is a reason
6. The more you know, the gentler you are
7. Horses do not wear wrist watches and as a result, they always have time
8. Intelligent action always brings intelligent reactions. If not, it's you and not the horse
9. It is not the bit which is the problem... It is the hand operating it
10. Don't annoy the horse

(author unknown)


ISO a few more students for my Riding in Partnership program.
Would you like to improve? Come to understand?
1) Your relationship on the ground with your horse
2) How your body language/energy is affecting your horse
3)The subtle clues your horse is giving you that you may be missing
4) Correct bio-mechanics for your horse to move in a healthy happy posture
5) Correct bio-mechanics for you to aid your horse without interference
6) How to develop your horse from the bottom up
utilizing the dressage Training Scale

It doesn't matter what discipline you ride but what does matter is your willingness to be open minded, curious, and have a deep love for your horse.

SEEKING OPEN MINDED, CURIOUS STUDENTSIn my decades of teaching I have come to learn that all horses want from us is to b...

In my decades of teaching I have come to learn that all horses want from us is to be seen, heard and understood..just like us.
Are you tired of dominance training and looking to create more of a partnership with your horse?
Do you want to learn to read your horse's subtle signals before they become alarm bells?
Would you like to be more aware of what habits you have in your own body that interfere with , rather than support your horse?
In order to create a happy, healthy athlete we need to look at the whole horse, not just what they can do for us.
Relationship is everything. Once you truly listen to your horse and work in partnership, your horse may well exceed your wildest dreams.
It takes patience, curiosity, open mindedness and love to achieve this balance.
I grew up here in Middleburg and learned in all the traditional avenues. I left in the 70's and spent decades out west focusing on dressage, natural horsemanship, life coaching and movement therapy. I am an Alexander Technique teacher, Centered Riding Instructor, Dreambuilder Coach .
When I moved back here 2 years ago I found what I feel is a big gap in the horse industry. That gap is in not listening to the horse. I would love to see more work with horses in harmonious partnership modalities, no matter the discipline.
I call my business The Harmonious Horse & Rider.
I would love to see the whole horse industry change as I believe that horses are here to help us heal ourselves and the world , one horse and rider at a time.
If you are curious and want to join me on this journey please PM me and we can chat.
"Change the way you see things and the things you see will change" Wayne Dyer

Timeline photos

Timeline photos

It can't be trained out; only worsened without treatment.

Yes, yes and more yes!!

Yes, yes and more yes!!

A week ago today I swung my saddle onto the back of a five-year-old quarter horse under the watchful eye of Tom Curtin.

The horse took a few concerned steps as my stirrup swung over his back. I looked up to see Tom’s grin under the brim of his hat and he said,

“You were thinking about saddling that horse, weren’t you?
You need to think about that horse while you saddle him.“

Last week I spent the week with Tom and his wife, Trina. I noticed a reoccurring lesson throughout the week.

The everyday activities I have done my whole life with horses took on a new meaning. “You were thinking about brushing that c**t, you need to think about that c**t while you brush him.” And, “you were thinking about bridling that mare, you need to think about that mare while you bridle her.”

Tom said, “No matter what you do, never forget that horse”.

So there I was, playing cowboy for a week, learning about c**t starting, riding young horses, checking cattle, but deep inside it all, learning how to be with a horse in a very intentional way.

It’s a sort of contract, you see. You’re not demanding that your horse give you their attention without an even exchange. Asking a horse to bring their attention to me now feels more like saying, “Remember I’m right here, thinking about you… In exchange can you think about me?”

The gift of Tom’s c**ts was that they already knew the feeling of being kept in mind, and they were good at telling me when I’d lost track of them. The calm that came over these horses when I thought of them as I went about my daily routines was just wonderful.

All it took was being mindful of their existence and attentive to their needs. We typically have some sort of goal with our horses that can provide a wonderful sense of purpose, but the goal is meaningless if we lose track of our partner in the process.

I hope in reading this you can be as inspired as I am. When you go out this week and do whatever you do with your horses, whether it be jumping fences, working cows, dancing in a dressage arena, chasing hounds, etc, see if you can go about your business with purpose, but never forget your horse.

~ Justin

📸 Erin Gilmore // Erin Gilmore Photography



A teacher dedicated to the student hopes and prays that student outgrows them.

A teachers job is to lead the student to themselves- to bring them confidence through experience, to provide information and to get them to connect dots on their own. A teachers job is not to create dependence on the teacher, but to create independence - to blossom the student into who they truly are, even and especially if the students confidence takes them beyond the teachers ability or onto new paths.

Photo by Melinda Yelvington

Yes! So true!

Yes! So true!

When you understand the principles of good movement, everything becomes much simpler. There isn’t really any miracle or magic to it- it’s just the application of sound principles done well repeatedly.

That’s my favorite part about it: it’s simple enough for just about everybody to accomplish! The bigger road block is not whether you’re talented enough or not, but whether you can stick it out when it grates against your current habits that need to be changed, or your views that may not be accurate.

So if you can commit to good habits and being aware of them daily, you can make huge changes in your horses movement.

This is very beautifully written and so true 💓

This is very beautifully written and so true 💓

What is the true nature of a horse?

I find myself often attempting to explain how a horse feels, uncorrupted by human attitudes and hands. It’s a feel most people can’t relate to , those first electric touches, the wind blowing your scarf around the back of your neck, the young horse like a baby deer, reaching out to make contact with your hand, before he zips away.

It’s like most people have never spent time in unspoiled nature, free of traffic noise, lights, trash left behind, trail markers. Who has felt unspoiled nature in all it’s terrible glory, and felt themselves give way to how small and inconsequential the human is? Who has felt complete surrender to a greater power, manifested in rocks and trees and dirt in the crevices of your face, and known, accepted happily, that you are nothing, and this is everything?

When a baby is born, we already have a name picked out, and clothes that say “daddy’s little slugger” or “daddy’s princess.” We have ideas of who they’ll be and how they’ll fit into the family and the world. How many a parent has sat in silent awe of the brilliance that is a brand new baby, completely shaken by the meaning of holding such raw power in their hands? Who is this little person, sent through your body? They are yours but they are their own completley.

Every day after that first day of birth, parents go to work molding their child, and labeling personality and behavior. But who is that child?
What is nature?

What is a horse?

Describing what a horse is to most people can feel like explaining why Central Park isn’t nature. You might enjoy being in it because it’s more nature than the high rise jungle that surrounds it. But it is still tarnished by human light, sound, their footprint is everywhere until it is twisted far away from its original form. You see a tree and can call it a tree, but it is no longer a tree, it is a slave to a human.

But what is a horse? Most folks have never met a horse. They’ve touched many, maybe even thousands, but they make quick work of weaving a safe blanket of description, strapping it on in the safety of a stall, behind fences and arenas and confined in tight spaces, in the safety of routine, so they don’t have to see a horse-

The true nature of the horse is like a desert canyon, windy, dry and brambled, and if you step back and really look, it takes the breath right out of your lungs with its power. You can’t name it, you can’t even hardly describe it. The act of simply giving it a name cheapens it. You can’t control it, you can learn it’s ways, learn to survive in the canyon by succumbing completely to its power, and then, in small mysterious ways, you shape it, like it shapes you.


When you are presenting something new or somewhat scary to a horse it’s important to embody an energetic example of what you desire in your horse. This is especially important when a horse is worried because they will be seeking a place of calmness in their environment. I often find people getting small and energetically retracting when uncertainty comes up. If a horse has a worried thought, don’t leave them in it but show them an example of a new way to feel and allow the time for them to receive it!



I've shared this before, and I'll continue to share it periodically. Look particularly at the dark blue, purple and light peach areas. Horses bodies did not evolve to withstand a lifetime of carrying a human's weight on their backs, nor to have us exert pressure on their lower jaws, tongues, TMJ joints and polls.

I rode horses for much of my life. Not just because I enjoyed riding, but because I was led to believe riding wasn't detrimental to horses. In fact, I was led to believe riding could actually be GOOD for horses when done "correctly". As if habitually using another's body for our own purposes can ever be the "correct" thing to do...

I no longer buy into these lies, nor will I perpetuate them for others.

I also don't judge those who ride. We've all been conditioned by the same system. I only hope that if you do ride, you also care enough to acknowledge that riding impacts the horse, and that you seek to understand all the ways this is true.



Good ones!

Good ones!

Just starting a feel a bit chilly now!

These stretches are ideal for the stable after exercise or after turn out to keep your friend supple and happy! 😀


I am UBER EXCITED!! My mentor/friend trainer-coach extraordinaire , Arlyn DeCicco of Balanced Equine Training is coming to Middleburg to coach me and few friends for 4 days in early October. It has been close to 2 years since I have had the opportunity to work with Arlyn and I can’t tell you how over the moon I am about this!!! Yay 🤗♥️🤗

Great info!

Great info!



I learned from an early age that training horses wasn't just a business, but a lifestyle.

By far the most important lesson I've learned is that no matter what, it's all about the horses. I strive to look out for owners' best interests and provide a healthy working environment, but to do that I must always do right by the horses.

You do that, and the rest will follow.



Transitions: The Building Blocks of Dressage 👍😎

So so True, and so hard to convince students of..

So so True, and so hard to convince students of..

At clinics, rarely do I get to help people with advanced work (even if they think they are ready for it) because usually the basics are “ok”. When you try to build advanced movements out of “ok” basics you end up with trouble in that movement.

Basics are hard, mostly because they can seem ok, but it’s the details that matter.

I was recently chatting with a friend who is an Olympic showjumping coach. He has competed at 3 Olympic Games and has coached his National team at 3 others.

I said to him “ you do lots of clinics around the world, do you ever run into people that can jump say, a metre, but want to jump higher, but in order to jump higher you have to take them back to the start, back to ground rails ?”

“All the time”, he said. “I rarely encounter anyone who wants to jump higher and is ready for it.”

Once you get the basics really good, the “hard” things are actually easy. It sounds completely backwards to most people, but once you get your head around it, the game changes completely.

I can totally relate.. it is very challenging

I can totally relate.. it is very challenging

There is such a fine line between doing right by the customer and doing right by the horse. If I do right by the horse, I throw out any time frame, any pressure to get anything done, and ride or work the horse I have in front of me, as he needs exactly and nothing more.

This might mean we don’t ride for a long time, or we don’t canter for a long time. Or maybe we ride on the second day. It all depends, there is no need for it to be anything other than what works for the horse.

If I do right by the customer, I remember they are spending good money on results. I remember how much it takes for them to get a horse over to me, and how much trust they put on me to take care of their needs. Not every client has endless money, and just because they can’t afford an open ended training deal doesn’t mean they don’t care about their horse’s wellbeing or want me to rush with him.

Finding that line every day is a delicate dance. I sometimes wonder if it’s ethical to train for the public at all, with an exchange of money divided into periods of time, two things that are both enemies of ethical training. But the world needs ethical trainers, so how do we do a good job for both horse and client?

Part of it I think involves finding the right kinds of clients, who are willing to put their own work in. Even if the pocket book is thin, a little elbow grease and willingness to try new things goes a long way.
I don’t have any easy answers, just a lot of questions that keep me up at night.

As a Centered Riding instructor I agree with every word here, well said!!!

As a Centered Riding instructor I agree with every word here, well said!!!

I love this and totally agree 🥰

I love this and totally agree 🥰

On Monday, Christine Fras asked a wonderful question. I was going to reply to her directly, but I found myself typing so many words I thought I’d put up the answer as a post.

Thank you, Christine, for the question. I loved answering it. And you gave me the opportunity to pay tribute to all the people who have got me here. Every word I write is thanks to the wisdom of people who have been here before me, doing the work, thinking the thoughts, putting the horse at the heart of everything they do. I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Here is the question:

‘Is there a name for this type of work/philosophy? My child really loves to ride and wants to work with animals in the future. I think this would benefit them as they move beyond high school.’

Here is the answer:

What a great question. It doesn’t have a name that I know. I just call it good horsing. The horsemanship I have learnt comes down from the mighty triumvirate of Tom and Bill Dorrance and Ray Hunt. Tom Dorrance taught Ray Hunt, and Ray Hunt taught Buck Brannaman, who is probably the best known person doing it today.

The person I found who changed the way I look at things is called Warwick Schiller and he has a brilliant online academy where you can subscribe and watch hundreds of training videos. Warwick saved me from shame and despair. I was on the verge of giving up when I found him, because the red mare was rearing and spooking and plunging about, hurling her head and terrified of everything. She was scared and I was scared and I didn’t know what to do about it. Warwick gave me a structure and method to move slowly forward. He gave me hope. I became so enchanted by all this that I went on an odyssey of learning.

I was lucky enough to work with two magnificent horsemen in real life - Robert Gonzales and Justin Colquhoun. Then I discovered the fabulous Jane Pike at Confident Rider, who also runs online courses, and who changed so many of the ways I look at myself and the world. She had a transformative effect, and I use the ideas she taught me every day.

Anna Blake also opened my eyes, with her dauntless advocacy for the horse. She challenged me, and I’m endlessly grateful for that. And I’m always finding new people to learn from, most lately Amy Skinner, who writes beautiful posts almost every day and whose every word is golden.

In other words, it takes a village. What unites all these people is that they are there for the horse, not for their own glory. That was perhaps my biggest change: I was showing up for my mares, not for my own self. There’s the lovely paradox of good horsing, right there: if you go down to the field asking ‘What can I do for my horse?’ you end up getting everything you need. You are not demanding; you are giving. But that is how you get. If you devote yourself to their happiness, they will offer you more than you could have dreamed.

What delighted me and fascinated me, about halfway through this grand voyage, was that I started to see that I did not need to change my horses, I needed to change myself. That was when I cast the net wider. I get a lot of my philosophy from people who didn’t give a fig about horses - the Stoics, professors of neuroscience, experts in the human psyche. The more I can find my own Place of Peace, the more I can give that to my mares.

You asked about children. Another wonderful question. I’ve had a posse of young girls for the last few years, most of whom did not have horses of their own, so I invited them to come and play with the red mare. Some of them came to me as young as eight or nine. A lot of the work we do is very slow and might not seem particularly exciting to a child. But if I was having children in the field with my thoroughbreds, I had to teach them these basics, to keep them safe.

So I started to think of ways to take these foundational horsing principles and make them fun. I use my imagination; I ask them to use their imagination. We have invented a lot of games. What amazed me was how they took to it. It’s not galloping about across country, jumping everything in sight, which is what I loved to do when I was their age. It involves quite a lot of very grown-up qualities, like patience and empathy and managing expectations.

Yet, they all got it. We had one or two drop-outs, but I’ve found that they love getting to know the mares on a profound level. They take a huge amount of satisfaction in giving the horses what they need. They will quite often choose not to ride, if one of the mares is a bit jangly or scratchy, and do some gentle work on the ground instead.

At the heart of this philosophy, for me, is the idea of being friends with your horse. Of being a friend for your horse. And children adore that idea. We get more satisfaction out of finding the best of the sweet spots and scratching it, so our mares fall into a swoon of pleasure, than in cantering or jumping.

It’s a way of being. I always wanted to win stuff. I’ve written about that here often. It’s what I grew up with. Now, the only silver cup I want to win is the one that says: every day, I am a better human for my mares. If they have joy, I have joy. And then we all win.

Dante decided he wanted to ring the bell at the NOWE working equitation clinic this weekend..he is such a ham!😅

Dante decided he wanted to ring the bell at the NOWE working equitation clinic this weekend..he is such a ham!😅

Good stuff

Good stuff




This is som I find very often with students.. Warwick just says it better 👏

Yes! And Yes!

Yes! And Yes!

“It’s absolutely mind boggling if you think about it.

Your horse gets absolutely nothing out of being competitive for you. Not a darn thing. Of course horses are bred for specific jobs, or they’re bred to be athletic to a certain degree. However, horses don’t wake up thinking about chasing cans, or cows, or flying over jumps.

They have no idea how much money is added to the pot.

They have no idea that this is a qualifier. They have no idea that this is the short go.

And DESPITE us... DESPITE our nerves, our flaws, our incorrect ques, our huge emotions, they get the job done to their very best ability. Even when we fail them by letting our emotions get in the way, they come back and they try again. For US. Whoa. Let that sink in. If only we could all be so understanding.

To think of an animal that is forgiving and flexible enough to put up with the repetition of practice, the intense nerves of the rider, the stress of hauling and still meet you at the gate for scratches is MIND. BLOWING.

If you haven’t done so lately. Thank your horse.

If you’re successful, thank the horses that put you there and made you. Thank the horses that gave everything they had for you simply because you ASKED them to.

If you’re still on the journey to success, thank the horses that made you fall in love with your sport and who have helped give you the confidence to want to learn more and be better.

We can never stop learning as horsemen and horsewomen, and by continuing our education every horse in our future will be better off.

Next time you head to the arena leave your ego at the door and thank your horse!”

~Samantha Roffers

This is just so lovely…

This is just so lovely…

I went down to the field this afternoon with a plan. I want to do some more regular work with Florence and really get her ready for the world.

But as I approached her with the halter and the rope and my grand plan, she very slightly turned her head away. She was standing still and I could easily have caught her and cracked on, but I remembered Anna Blake and her calming signals and I changed my mind.

I dropped the rope and moved into acute observation. I looked for the tiniest twitch of doubt. I sought all the minute, subliminal intimations of No. And with each one, I stepped back and breathed and let all the want go out of me.

I thought: one of the loveliest things you can do for your horse is to let go of desire.

We did this for a long time. I heard the pigeons cooing and the woodpeckers drumming in the woods and the faint moment of thunder as Clova suddenly decided she was going to have a gallop about. Flo, who is very sensitive to noise, ignored all of this. She was rooted to the good Scottish earth. I rooted myself in it too.

She took a step towards me and softened and I ran my hand up her velvet neck and then she retreated again and I stepped back and gave her all the space she needed.

This went on for fourteen minutes. (I had set my stopwatch, out of interest.) And then she released and released and released, stretching down and licking and chewing and shaking herself all over.

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘That’s better. You got all that out.’

Then she dropped herself into the Place of Peace, deeper than I have ever known her to go. That went on for so long that I lay down on the grass and watched, asking for nothing, letting the peace roll into me, filling my own body with love. (I actually said, out loud, ‘My shoulders are filled with love, my legs are filled with love, my back is filled with love.’

The red mare, who was about fifteen yards away, eating her hay, stopped munching and put herself into her own Place of Peace, so now I had the rolling atomic sense of happiness and calm coming at me from both sides.

After about half an hour, I stood up and thanked Flo and told her that we were done. She blinked at me, as if to say, ‘I might just carry on, if you don’t mind.’

I went to pay the red mare her due. She had walked through the woods with a new friend this morning and been adorable with a baby and said hello to some walkers and generally spread love and laughter about her as if she were handing out lottery tickets. She deserved some extra love for that.

But what was so fascinating was that, when I got to her, she didn’t need the love. She had filled her own body up with love and she was zenning her Zen and she was dreaming her dreams. She opened half an eye when I got to her and I stroked her very gently for a moment and told her how magnificent she was, but she really had no requirements so I simply stood with her and felt the beauty.

And then I left them and came home, restored.



Your horse can never take advantage of you. He doesn’t have the makeup for it. He’s trying to do whatever works. If you feel like the horse is trying to get one over you, that’s your own perspective, not reality.

Love this, so true!!

Love this, so true!!

When you begin to understand that real horsemanship comes from self development, you stop looking at difficult situations with horses as problems. They become opportunities for growth- every spooky c**t, poorly started older horse, every windy day, lame step, or undesirable behavior I’ve encountered in my life has paved the way for learning. Each one of these problems then becomes a stepping stone to self mastery - regulating your emotions, improving your timing, learning to observe, learning to set up situations in the future for success based on situations in the past that did not go as well as you’d hoped. You stop labeling these problem moments as “good” or “bad,” but just another opportunity to connect with your horse in a way that is meaningful to them, and to develop skills that make communicating with all horses easier and more peaceful.



I am no longer impressed ...

I am no longer impressed by how high someones horse can jump, I am not impressed by a horse’s dressage score or what their pedigrees are.

I am not even impressed by a horse going bitless, or liberty work or piaffes or Spanish walks or even if someone trains with food or a whip, heck I am not even impressed if someone doesn't even train with a whip or food. To be honest it doesn't tell me much and has absolute no value, to me atleast.

You know what I am impressed by ?
A horse doing something as basic as standing still and waiting, contently without frustration, fear or anger. I am impressed by training that will always allow the horse to "win", with a horse that is soo happy to be a part of the process. I am impressed by a horse that understand that they can say no and says no when they feel uncomfortable. I am impressed by people allowing their horses their most basic needs.

I am impressed by people who are open to learning about how to improve their horse's wellfare. People who want to educate themselves on their horse's hooves, ethology and wellbeing. I am impressed by people who have been willing to unlearn and to grow for the wellbeing of the horse.

I am impressed by willing, calm and positive training for both the horse and trainer. Everyone's goals are different it doesn't mean someone is a bad person if they do not share these values, that is 100% okay. But, there is much more to a "happy horse" then a shiny coat and the absence of physical abuse.

Some pretty rad stuff here!
2022 Art Of The Horseman FREE ONLINE Horse Fair

Some pretty rad stuff here!

Virtual Horse Fair -Be informed, inspired, and empowered with the latest insights about horse training, health, and wellness by leading experts you can trust.

This explains it beautifully ♥️

This explains it beautifully ♥️


𝘉𝘺 𝘊𝘢𝘳𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘓𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘩, 𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘥𝘏𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴

When we ride, we think of contact as the action of the reins on the bit but contact means so much more. This is how Merriam-Webster defines contact:

2 a : association, relationship

b : connection, communication

c : an establishing of communication with someone or an observing or receiving of a significant signal from a person or object.

3: a person serving as a go-between, messenger, connection, or source of special information.

Contact is an expression and a reflection of the relationship and understanding between horse and rider.

Reprint from 2016


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Middleburg, VA


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beautiful ! :)
soft eyes, happy campers
SUPER name!!
Thanks everybody for liking my page, Whoohoo! I promise I will generate some great stuff soon, am dealing with some health issues, shingles, yuk! and next week head back to Middleburg to see 91 yr old Dad, and my 87 Yr old Mom is having a hip replacement! so send good thoughts and I will get rockin and rolling on this page when I return!
you look happy. your horse does also. I like his hat(: