Harry Whitney Clinic Notes
From The HORSES POINT OF VIEW
(Mostly what he said during the
May 3-4, 1997
The clinic was held at 7 Oaks ranch (dressage and hunter/jumper stable).
There were 9 riders in the clinic as participants, 4 English and 5
arena was set up with panels in one end that could be moved in to make a round
pen, then back out to make the end of the arena:
"Ask questions:" and
"There are no strangers here, only friends we haven't met yet!"
Those were the first things Harry told the participants and auditors.
"Don't make a big deal about it if the horse is just saying 'I don't
"Just get them to walk, you don't have to move fast to get the horse to
"When I present something I want him to change."
"I want him doing what I'm doing, not just doing and doing to get it over
"(Forget verbal commands!)
"Your energy should set the pace of the horse."
"Watch the whole body to see the direction."
"Get them to listen - build the direction - get the body to come with head
away from rail."
Harry uses a shredded plastic bag on the end of a collapsible fishing rod as
a flag to get the horses moving, change direction, stop, up the gait, etc. He
urges the participants to "Keep the flag behind you, low to the ground,
unless you want to increase the pressure."
"Get the turn from both directions - you MUST get the right side,
"If you understand the horse, you can do this (train) without a round pen,
without an arena, etc."
"If you can teach them one thing and understand how you did it, you can
teach them anything."
"Recognize the correctness - every step you let them take that is
incorrect, you are teaching the horse that that is what you want."
"Respect is built on some level of fear."
"Be consistent - walk up friendly to pet and aggressive when you want him
to move. Know what you're asking - be specific.
You're in the awareness business!
"You have to know what it looks like."
"Be precise - with no variation - you must be that way!
"Get a response and leave the horse alone."
"They must yield - the lead mare is the lead because she gets all the
other horses to yield. The yield can be with relaxed understanding and NOT
"Back through a gate if they try to rush through."
"Take as long as it takes. It could take 20 seconds, 20 minutes or 20
"Correct incorrect behavior as soon as it starts."
"Make transitions - when you make them walk, trot, canter, up or down -
you are teaching them."
"Be subtle, pick up your energy, keep the flag quiet and use it only as a
"Don't get in the NAGGING trap! Don't try to anticipate he is going to do
"Get the response - start small and slow, then to something big, then soon
the small will get the response."
"Bring up to a canter, let go back to a trot, get back up to a
"Make YOU the most important thing to your horse."
"Don't make laps and laps without anything else going on."
"You have to make the decision. Don't accept the change if you did not ask
"Don't be afraid, teach them and pet them - the stopping when you want
keeps it friendly."
"Rub and Rub to pet them, don't pat."
"Do lots of transitions in the round pen to get the horse to be paying
attention to YOU to know what you are going to do next."
"Get them to yield their hindquarters."
"Break the cycle of the habitual and get them to think. BE CREATIVE! - the
more creative the better."
"Make it difficult for the wrong thing to happen. Let it happen, then
irritate to discourage the behavior. Making difficult can be a SMALL
"The hardest thing to get horse people to do is to sit and do nothing on a
"You can play with a horse and remain high in the(ir) pecking order."
"When they walk off and you create pressure (do something big), you are
not trying to make him go away, you are making it more difficult to go and easy
"I don't believe in treats too much. The horse comes to anticipate them,
knows where they are. Ask for a specific behavior, then treat and only if you
are SURE you have the horse understand WHY they are getting a treat."
"You must get the horse to understand what to do to get the irritation
away. You must have timing - you can bump them before the bite, then go and pet
his head softly right after. That way you won't get him head-shy."
"The horse will like it better when he knows where he stands and knows his
"Have a different approach when you pet than when you want him to do
something. Change your body language."
"See like a search light, not like a flashlight."
"You must always be thinking."
"Be clear in what you ask."
"Watch for the setup - don't add additional pressure if they are setting
up to do the thing you have asked them to do."
"Don't stay in the center. Be off to one side - then they have to go
between you and the fence in that tight spot."
"Give them time and room - make sure they are walking off and not walking
to where they will have more room to make a turn, etc."
"The little things can mean SO much!"
"Use every opportunity to get them to yield to you."
"Stop asking once they start doing what you've asked."
"Stopping the pressure means the most. Horses learn from the release, not
from the pressure."
"The 1-rein stop is used to get the disconnect of the hind quarters. Turn
the head tighter and tighter, circle with hindquarters and the horse stops -
MUST get the disconnect."
"Make the hind end step sideways. Don't use legs, do both the right and
left rein, KEEP LEGS OFF horse. This gets the horse soft and supple. Don't
release until the horse stops with a bend. Don't encourage forward movement
when you want a stop - move slow. Once that is complete, do a half circle to
other direction (180) and get a bend in the horse. How and what is the difference
in a bend to stop and a bend to turn? - It's in you. To stop, drop
your energy - the horse will know. The first place a horse will get lazy is in
a turn. Feel the feet, keep the rhythm in a turn and make sure the horse keeps
the pace. Don't be afraid to ask. Sit and do nothing if the horse is doing what
you want. Lift your energy to get him to walk faster. Now keep your energy up
and turn - don't let him slow. Observe the horse, compare the two sides. Were
they soft, stiff, were there differences?"
"It matters only to you - if it matters then you need to work on it."
"lower your energy and do nothing, then get in a hurry and get faster
walk. Do complete circles of RP a couple of times, then turn without losing
your pace and energy."
"Find out how slow you can move him without stopping, now be in a hurry,
like you're walking to somewhere important."
"Remember, when he starts to turn, be sure to release (to say yes - Thank
You!) Don't just pull him around, ask, then release. You may have to
ask/release 4 or 5 times to do 1/2 circle. That's OK. then horse will
understand and will circle with less and less and just doing it on a thought
from you. Trust him to do his part of the job. Start using less and less -
release as soon as turn starts."
DEMO - One horse doesn't want to leave the other horses.
"Be patient. Do one step of what you want then let the horse do what he
has to, then two steps... When they get where you don't want them irritate
them, make it difficult to be with other horses. Let the horse go out and away
- if he really needs to go back let him and irritate him again when you get back
to the others - just a little irritation now, use a little rein and less and
less irritation. Let the horse stop and rest if he will. If he resists too
much, just let him go back to the other horses, and start again.
"Support with one rein (get the nose moved to that direction). Then, do
a one rein stop with other rein, get the bend in that direction and you stop.
Don't use each rein in the same way at the same time, this causes the horse to
fight the bit."
"The support rein is used to determine how far to bend (don't get too much
"First turns, step and get one step back to be sure you've got the yield.
Support with outside, ask with the inside rein. The sooner you release after a
try the better. (Should be able to teeter-totter back and forth without moving
a foot.) Just ask for and look for a lean !"
"To back - take all the slack out of one rein (supporting rein) and ask to
back with the other. If the horse turns, there is too much slack in the support
rein. Once you feel the slightest try, release with both hands. Keep it smooth
"Just because you move up in speed (e.g.; walk to trot), doesn't mean your
hands should move faster. Don't let your horses get lazy in the turns. Do two
steps forward and back one.
The history of neck reining: It's just a cue for plow reining. Originally,
the rider would use both reins in one hand, leaving the other hand free for
roping or whatever. As the reins moved to the right, for example, the left rein
would contact the horses neck prior to the right rein affecting the bit. The
horse came to anticipate the plow rein from the touch on the neck, instead of
direct bit pressure.
Harry related a Ray Hunt saying: "Go back to square one." When a
guy asked "When do we leave square one?", Ray said, "You don't,
you always take it with you."
If the horse doesn't follow you in the round pen, and they back away instead
of moving forward, circle around behind them. When they take that one step
forward, pet them! This is just one way, there are many other ways to do
Past history is more important than sex, breed and color. Self-preservation
is different for each:
Geldings - Don't eat me,
Mares - The pecking order, who's in what: first, second...standing order.
Stallion - Must make another generation of me, where is everything on the
You don't treat them differently, they each can & need to get focused on
you. Doing laps around and around is not so important, getting the focus is.
"Laugh in the round pen from time to time to keep your perspective. It
helps you breathe as well."