Schooling the Horse In Hand and Under Saddle to develop relaxation and balance

Joanne Holmberg | October 1, 2008

Gaited Horsemanship Clinics with Nationally Recognized Trainer Larry Whitesell on Oct. 31-Nov. 2 and Nov. 3-5

Larry Whitesell in handCAVE CREEK – Come to the Larry Whitesell clinic and experience a training philosophy that emphasizes that “it should be fun for you and your horse.” Whitesell has trained every breed of gaited horse since 1980 and was very successful in the show ring including grand national championships. Now Larry primarily spends time training what he calls “the ultimate pleasure horses” all across the country.

Not satisfied with just training horses to win ribbons, Whitesell decided in the early 1990s to focus on training horses to make them safer and more dependable for their owners whether on the trail or in the show ring. He began learning classical dressage to work towards the lightness and softness these horses demonstrate and spent time with several “natural horsemen.” Larry emphasizes the importance of “training our horses not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.”

Larry Whitesell in saddleIncorporating the same basic techniques from both classical dressage and natural horsemanship, Larry has developed a program to teach people many exercises that can be done at home to develop the horse gymnastically to facilitate relaxation, create flexibility and balance. Instead of using large bits and equipment to steer, stop or try to obtain gait which can create stiffness in the horse, Larry uses exercises so the horse learns to respond to subtle cues. The end result is better steering, balanced, light stops, and improved gaits.
Working from the ground first is “teaching the horse to respect the hand” and Larry is adamant about not mounting the horse until they do. Even after riding, he emphasizes the importance of “warming up on the ground before getting up.” The basics can be done with any horse, not just gaited horses, to make them lighter and more responsive to the rider.

To reserve a spot with your horse at one of the Whitesell clinics in Cave Creek on Oct. 31-Nov. 2 or Nov. 3 – 5 or to attend as an auditor, contact Polly Roberts at 602-920-7121. For more information on Larry Whitesell, visit his website at

Top photo: Larry Whitesell working a Paso Fino mare “in hand” to improve flexibility and responsiveness at a ranch in Cave Creek.
Lower photo: Whitesell riding the same mare with subtle cues to achieve flexibility under saddle.

Photos by Joanne Holmberg