Thursday, August 23, 2012


Stacy Westfall Shows Us How It's Done

English riders can be dismissive of Western riders, and vice versa, but I've never met an equestrian who doesn't think that Stacy Westfall's bridleless, bareback championship freestyle run in 2006 was the very essence of horsemanship.

If you're allergic to country music, go ahead and mute it: for the record, it's dedicated to her dad, who died less than a month before.

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I'd be so much happier if she were wearing a safety hat! So much can happen. I ride bareback a fair bit (keeps your bum warm in winter and saves having to change out of shorts in summer), and bridleless I can do about 15 minutes before Petal gets bored and goes and stands by the gate.

Nicole Cliffe

@Es Yes, everyone should wear a helmet, always. Even if you're on a dude ranch, or something, and the cowboys laugh at you. I put mine on as soon as I walk in the barn, because I've seen people get kicked while picking out hooves due to an ill-timed horsefly bite.


@Nicole Cliffe I broke my neck coming off a 12hh riding school pony - I was teaching, had hopped onto demonstrate something and she tripped and somersaulted and I landed on the back of my neck and head. The crushed bit on the back of my hat was the size of my hand - I am pretty sure that if I'd had that on my skull to contend with as well as the broken neck I wouldn't be typing this now. Before that I was a bit lax about it sometimes, but it really brought home that it's not about how quiet the horse is, or how good a rider you are - the best horse can put its foot in a hole and send you flying.


Yes, This. Also, actually tighten your helmet straps! So many of the girls at our barn rode with their helmet straps hanging down well below the chin. These were riders jumping fences. Big, wood, solid fences.
(My dad cracked his bike helmet in half getting hit by a car, so I appreciate helmets. I also will wear my cross country crash vest in the ring if I'm jumping on a new horse, a green horse, or a horse with known behavioral problems. I probably should always wear it, but it's regularly over 100 here, so sometimes a helmet is all my selfish side will allow)


@Es HELMETS FOR EVERYONE! I came off a pony and my helmet saved my life- I had a skull fracture, concussion, and slight brain bleed while wearing an ASTM/SEI certified helmet. I'd be dead or in a coma if I hadn't put my hat on that day.

I rode with a bunch of German dressage people for a while... they didn't wear helmets, but I always did. Every. single. time. Because you never know when your reliable, easy horse will have A Moment.


Wow what a powerful video and message thank you. @k


God! I want, NO NEED, a horse.


I know exactly enough about horses to know that I like to pet their soft noses.

So this looks basically impossible.


@OhShesArtsy My parents own stables and yet you have summed up everything I know about horses, also. They're terrifying! They can literally run at top speed with you on their backs. I'll stick with the velvety nose.


This is supposed to make us cry, right? Right.

Hot Doom

@Ophelia I hope so because I have tears in mein eyes.


@LolaLaBalc For me, it started when the announcer got a hitch in his voice when he was introducing her, and then progressed to full on sobbing by the first chorus.


@Ophelia Yep, I'm definitely crying hot tears. For me, it was thinking about how she probably drew so much comfort from training with and being around that horse in the aftermath of her dad's death.

Plus, fuck. Tim McGraw singing songs about death and/or dads & daughters is almost a guaranteed rainmaker...for my face.


@Ophelia Yup, I just came over to check the comments and make sure I wasn't the only one.


@Ophelia I've seen this probably a hundred times. I still cry every time.


@katherinerine Take ten for BIG blobby tears. I worked with a hippotherapist/Parelli devotee and the two hours I spent riding bridleless/bareback were still some of the most inspiring hours of my life. This was incredible to see.


This is for Craig Schmersal and all those rollkur practitioners out there. Oh, and the sorers of Tennessee Walking Horses. And the Western Pleasure guys whose horses "tranter" with their noses on the ground. And the showjumpers who spur their horses AT the same time as they yank on their mouths. This is how it's meant to be.


@Susanna Don't even get me started on "breaking" horses. ALL THE STABBY FEELINGS.

fondue with cheddar

@Susanna I didn't understand any of what you said there except for the part about spurring and yanking. I'm not sure I want to know what the rest means. :(

I don't know a thing about horses (obviously), but the love and companionship between these two is palpable.

Nicole Cliffe

@Susanna I was going to post a Big Lick video, but thought it would be nicer to showcase the good instead of the completely awful.


@Nicole Cliffe Yeah, there is SOOOO much flying about on that subject. Congressmen protecting it and stuff like that... Am going to do some kind of post on it soon. There's a very good local columnist who covers the shenanigans and I'd like to do my little bit to spread the word about him and what he's revealing.

A friend sent me this Westfall video when I blogged about Craig Schmersal. It's magic. No, we probably can't all do it, but we should at least aspire to it.


@Susanna I think you just answered my question, as beautiful as this was to watch I wanted reassurance that the horse is acting out of loyalty to a trainer that rewards good behavior, and not out of fear of punishment. I think I saw in how steady this horse is, that this is true.


@Susanna I would be stunned if she used cruel methods, and I don't think she would get those results. It *is* possible to ride that way but it takes patience, intuition and time, and a lot of professional horsemen and women have none of those.


@Susanna Yep, I agree - I don't think you can use cruel methods in training and have the horse continue to cooperate when it's at liberty. Even the most cowed horse will catch on sooner or later that they're not going to get the shit beaten out of them in a show ring...


@Es It also shows the cooperation. Plenty of horses would happily use that as a chance to misbehave! Or at least, every childhood pony I pulled that stunt with did ;)


@Susanna Yeah, mine, who is the sweetest and most generally obliging person ever, will humour me bridleless for so long and then she just gets bored and goes and stands by the gate.


My goodness! That is a beautiful horse. How much training and discipline and love must have gone into that. And Stacy must have thighs of steel.

Tammy Pajamas

Did that horse just curtsy?


And some Bartabas...


This is beautiful. I can't even imagine. I had a pony I could ride bareback with just a halter when I was thirteen, but we were just goofing off in the fields. I miss that horse though, you guys. He would follow me all day without me needing to use a lead rope. He would get so fuzzy in the winter that he stopped looking like a real horse, and looked like a toy you would find on a little girl's bed.


She has a blog and there's a video of her with her horse Snoop, amazing woman: http://stacywestfallhorseblog.com/


All the licking! All the chewing! And the peeeeeeeeeeeeets. Man.


Stacy Westfall Forever. I watch this video at least twice a week. Have for YEARS at this point. I loved showing it to my mom, who taught me about horses and riding.

when I was a wee one, my mom had a saying she would whip out when a guest to our barn complained about wearing a helmet. "If you think your looks are more important than your brains, you're probably right."

She also told me (after I was loudly chastised by a showmom for mounting my horse on the wrong side) that "because that's tradtional/just the way its always been done" is the stupidest of reasons for anything, including horsemanship.


@TattyEmu Your mom sounds like she had some pretty good stuff to teach about life, too.


@Ophelia My mom is a wonder with horses. Less good with people, including children.

But yeah, many horse lessons are excellent life lessons.


@TattyEmu Thank you for validating the many hours I've spent teaching young horses that it's okay to be mounted from either side. Srsly, ppl, it doesn't matter, and your horse should know how to deal with it either way.

Fiddle dee dee

The communication between rider and horse is impressive.

The communication between the rider and the audience is less impressive. It's too bad she did not trust the crowd to properly reward the performance according to their own judgement.

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