Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dear Allison: Stopping Anxiety

Dear Allison,
It’s no secret, I can’t stop my horse. I may have finally conquered some of the problem with a recent surgery. I have Crohns disease and some of my guts had welded themselves to each other. It was very painful so I was guarded when trying to stop. Anyway, when I rundown, I get tense, don’t like to go that fast then slam into the dirt I guess. My horse knows this, he runs just fine but hits on the front end because he can and I can’t fix it. I am about to start riding again and will work on trying to stay relaxed, but how to deal with that tension and stiffness and then also know when and how to get after the horse for not making any effort and hitting on his front end? How do you retrain your mind and body to stay relaxed?
Thanks, Salina Bailey

Dear Salina,
As much as we would all like to have the perfect circumstances, the best horses, and the ability we dream of, the majority of performance horse lovers fall somewhere in the in-between. Even without a physical limitation, such as yours, apprehension and struggle can come with maneuvers, especially stopping. A front endy, jackhammer stop will rock anyone’s body. One of the things you will never be able to do is force yourself to relax. Just the idea of it is contradictory.

There are 3 components to your situation. The first is the mental block. You can talk yourself into being brave and trying it even though it may have hurt in the past, but the reality is, that fear and tension will come right back with the first bone-jarring stop. I believe that in order to feel confident, one must first feel competent. I believe that if you better address your horse’s training and stop, and your philosophy on the stop, you will improve the situation, thereby improving your confidence.

Next is the issue of your horse hitting his front end in the stop. You need to go back to basics with him and soften his stop at the walk, trot and lope. Often when a horse hits his front end it has a lot to do with resistance in his shoulders and his face. In effect, he is coming more to a halt at speed, than what he should be doing which is going from forward motion to backward motion. That is the essence of the type of stop you are trying to achieve. I find that most people do not finish their stop completely. You need to go back to saying the word “whoa” as you draw on him in your stop, be sure to continue your pull and body motion until you feel him come back into a backup, then release. As you increase your speed, you will have a horse that is hunting the release that comes with the draw back, and this will help keep his shoulders up and free and his feet moving through the stop. There is a video on my youtube channel that illustrates this concept.

Finally, there is your body position in the stop. I have seen little success with trying to tell a rider how to sit, or what to do with their body. It often results in mechanical and inconsistent results. I like to encourage people not to think of what they should or shouldn’t do with their body, but to instead develop a feel for what their horse is doing with his body when he stops properly and to both mimic and compliment that task. I think that the notion of a reining stop, leaning back with legs thrust forward with weight in the stirrups causes a lot of non pros issues. The people running and stopping like that in the magazines, have a lot of softness and feel in their body that gets lost in translation. When most people mimic that body position, it results in a rigid body. Leaning back is not proper, nor is rigidity in your legs. That same braciness in the rider’s body is what contributes to the stiffness in the horse’s stop. Think of what you want your horse to do. If you want him to be soft and broken in his back and light and free with his shoulders, so should you be. You will not be leaning back, but because you are behind the drive point of your horse, your shoulders will be behind your hip333s. When you initiate the stop, allow your horses body to first begin the stop and think of yourself as going to the ground with him. Not that your body is forcing him to stop. Draw your stomach in and round your back and tuck your pelvis, just as he is. Keep your shoulders loose and free, even as you draw on him. Instead of reaching for your stirrups, think of opening your knees as you put subtle weight into your stirrups. Continue this position into the draw back. The way I am able to process things is not to make a check list, but more to have a vision of what I want. As I ask my horse to stop, there is a mental picture of what I want my horse’s body to be like and my body seeks that. You can practice this position at the draw back instead of always working on the stop at speed, take ahold of your horse with this picture in mind and draw him back. It will help solidify the motion both in your mind and muscle memory.

There is no race to perfection. Build up your muscles, your understanding of the maneuver and your confidence before you go running down the pen like you are in the finals of the NRHA Futurity. It is no different than training your horse. Small, consistent, clear steps with complete understanding are key to a confident, capable and content horse and rider.
Happy Stopping,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dear Allison: Fencing

Dear Allison,
I don’t understand Fencing !!! How do you do it correctly and WHAT is the Purpose?
Sebrina Holstrom - Bellingham, WA

Great question Sebrina,
In a nutshell, “Fencing” is the practice of perfecting your rundown. At reining or cowhorse shows you will see riders lined up on each long end of the arena running their horses from one end to the other. Sometimes they will stop their horses, much like they will when they are showing, and other times, they will let their horses go all the way to the fence. This is where the term “fencing” comes from. It may seem hard to believe, but one of the most important things to the quality of your horse’s sliding stop, is how well he runs. Even if your horse has a lot of “whoa” to him, he may not stop as well as he could because he is not running straight or true. In a reining stop, it is ideal to have the stride before your horse stops, be the peak of speed in the rundown. If your horse is running true in this way, he is best prepared for a free and easy stop.

It is in the nature of horses to anticipate. In their rundowns they will either get strong and want to run too soon, or want to slow down as they anticipate the stop. Fencing is a great way to teach your horse to run gradually from one fence to the other in a relaxed manner. In addition, it is hard for a horse to perform a square sliding stop if he is running crooked or leaning. Fencing allows you to redirect or address the crooked rundown.

I think there is a lot of misconception that fencing is used to run the horse into the fence, teaching them to stop better. Again, fencing is used to make your horse WANT to run to the fence, straight and true each time. One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is punishing your horse at the destination (fence) and making it a place they do not want to be. Remembering the reason and the desired outcome are key to perfecting a maneuver.

Thanks for your question and I look forward to more!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Every once in a while you are gifted. Enjoy it and take advantage of it. It isn't really luck if you were there to receive it. Think of it as a reward for putting yourself out there. The same with bad luck, it happens to everyone and it isn't personal. When you fall off, dust yourself off and get back on your horse. Allison Trimble ~

Monday, October 1, 2012

Training to the Point of Contact

Allison Trimble talks about training to the point of contact with your horse.

The Back Up: Getting Straight

Allison Trimble gives a pointer on how to correct a crooked back up.

Proper Bridling

Allison Trimble shows you how to properly bridle your horse with a browband and split ear headstall.


RISK: You have to be willing to take a few calculated risks. No one has ever become famous or successful by playing it safe. Don't be afraid to hang it out there and you may be surprised to find you are greater that you ever thought you could be. Allison Trimble ~


Practice is everything. If you are not prepared when you walk in the pen, magic is not going to happen. Your commitment and time spent preparing at home as is important as the show day. Allison Trimble ~


Trust: Your relationship with your horse is a partnership. Like any marriage you need trust, compassion and understanding. Both you and your horse have to trust each other and work together to make a run successful. Allison Trimble ~


Perspective: Life is like the cow you draw, there are good days, ones you wish you could forget and ones you will never forget. Every time you walk in the pen, remember that you are lucky and thankful to be there, regardless of the score. Allison Trimble

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cowgirl Wisdoms: Allison's Haltering Pet Peeve

Allison Trimble teaches you the proper way to halter your horse and tie a rope halter. This is one of the most commonly made mistakes, so even if you think you don't have a problem haltering your horse, watch this anyway.

Cowgirls Cry

I used to love the saying "Cowgirls Don't Cry." It struck me as funny one day as I was sitting in my truck bawling my eyes out, because I cry all the time. I cry from disappointment,frustration, loss, heartbreak, and happiness. I am a Cowgirl. I live large and I invest myself.I make mistakes, I try too hard, I see the good in everyone, humans and animals alike. I take in stray dogs. I put my heart into everything, so yes, I cry. Often. But what makes a Cowgirl special is that no matter how much it hurts, or how hard we fall, we will always get back up, dust ourselves off, wipe the tears from our face, and aim a little higher. Long live Cowgirls. ~ Allison Trimble ~

Monday, July 30, 2012

Little Footsteps

"Somewhere there is a little cowgirl who wants to be just like you someday. You owe it to her to be the best Cowgirl you can be." ~ Allison Trimble

Cowgirl Wisdoms: Turn Around Trouble

Allison Trimble talks about common mistakes that riders make with their body while attempting a reining spin.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cowgirl Wisdom: Introduction

Allison Trimble connects the dots between the horse, the rider, training tools and drills with philosophy and understanding to create a complete, cohesive and comprehensive training program. Cowgirl Wisdoms will help you have a deeper understanding of the why of what you are asking of your horse.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Moment

There is a moment that all Cowgirls share. The moment when she first touched a horse and the course of her life was forever changed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

In every Cowgirl's story...

You taught me to dream, to believe, to triumph. Behind every cowgirl is a horse that taught her to love with her whole heart.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

You Only Live Once...

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
― Mae West

Monday, May 28, 2012

Worth It

“I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”
― Mae West

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


"We are all of us STARS, and we deserve to twinkle." Marilyn Monroe

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Right Shoes...

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
― Marilyn Monroe

Walking a Cowgirl's path can be hard and is often an uphill climb - that's why she sometimes needs really special boots.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cowgirl: Takes a Stand

"Cowgirl: She is not afraid to take a stand for her friends, for her family, for what is right."

“You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.” ― Winston S. Churchill

A Cowgirl's belief system is what she lives by. She is not easily swayed by popular belief or fads, nor does she feel pressure to conform. She lives with passion, loves hard, treats everyone like family, but is not afraid to make an deserving enemy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cowgirl Rides

Cowgirl: She knows that life is going to buck and bawl, and that she may even get pitched a time or two. But, experience has taught her that anything worth doing is going to take heart and grit. So with a sparkle in her eye, she saddles up and rides. Allison Trimble

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Big Girl Boots

“When you see someone putting on her Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”
― A.A. Milne

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Knowing me, knowing you. Finding common ground in your training philosophy.

It is a process of becoming, whether in your private and professional life, or in the training of your horse. In my own journey, I am always searching for growth and deeper understanding. One of the most incredible gifts that this trade offers is that it is infinite. There is always room for greater appreciation and knowledge. You become more proficient; you improve your skill; you get better at learning how to learn and interpret, but there are no limits to the expanse of the experience.
The power in understanding most often comes from the ability to liken the concept to something that is familiar. As a trainer of horses and people, my task is to help guide people to these concepts. To be effective, I have to draw on my own journey, as well as understand the human and the horse that I am working with. This is not always an easy task because it challenges me to deal with my past failures as well as successes. Sometimes what I see isn’t what I like, but it gives me an opportunity to identify things that need changing.

I am working hard to define my belief system as a trainer. I have always discouraged people from anthropomorphizing their horses. Horses operate from instinct and conditioned responses. I take issue with people trying to work with horses as though they are two horses working together. I encourage them to work as a human with the understanding of the behavior of a horse. I discourage them from putting human emotion into their animals, largely because they are then bringing their own emotions to the table, and that is rarely a positive thing. Horses are large in relation to a human, and can be very dangerous if approached as though they are equals. I always have the safety of both the human and the horse in mind at all times.

Another strong belief I have is in the power of the horse/human relationship. I am in constant awe of the majesty of what is possible in a properly functioning relationship. Many of you know that I have a number of special horses in my life to whom I attribute much of my success. I do not see horses as simply a vehicle to championships. I believe, to my core, in their intrinsic power and value. I rely on the strength that the experience with horses can give you in all aspects of your life. I believe in it so deeply that my entire life is built around helping to nurture that relationship between other humans and horses. These statements probably define me as a horsewoman more than any others.

In my own life, I am in a period of examination and growth. Most people who know me would classify me as passionate, emotional, and logical. I am so all or nothing as to make other people’s idea of black and white seem grey. It is part of why I have had success, but in my personal life, it has not always proved to be so useful. In my own head, I struggle with that classification of emotional and logical. I know both are true, but they seem to be conflicting concepts. I always see emotional as kind of a state of overreacting, and I feel like that is one of my less attractive traits. I often sympathize with my horse Sox because I think of us as having this similarity of being very talented and giving 110%, but sometimes a little finely wired and hard to get around. I have actually had a person say to me once, “I don’t understand you. How can you care so much about EVERYTHING?” (imagine that phrase spoken in a slightly exasperated tone)

I feel the need to explain myself a lot. I seem to have a strong presence and sometimes my real intention doesn’t always come across. The sometimes logical presentation can get muddled with the emotional accounts. Over time I started trying to explain my emotions and responses to life events in horse terminology. As though somehow this would soften the blow of “Allison-ness” of it all. Perhaps my behavior would be better accepted by humans if they could just think of me as a high spirited filly. I chuckled this morning when I realized that I have moved from trying to explain horse training philosophy with life analogies, to explaining my life as though I was a horse. It was an interesting moment when that dawned on me, especially since I am often attempting to illustrate the differences between horses and humans. True to form, I immediately set to reasoning why I wasn’t wrong, either then or now, and it led me to this epiphany of sorts.

When I compare myself to my horse, Sox, to help explain my own nature, I have started referring to myself as hyper-reactionary. My emotions/reactions are not specific to the moment in which I am feeling them. My current heartbreak is never entirely about the situation I am in; my emotion is developed largely because of my experiences up to that point. The trial I am going through is going to become a part of my emotional composite that will have an effect on how I react when I am in another similar situation in the future. I immediately thought of how I am always saying we are training our horses in this moment for the future, not for today. Always be thinking about the next show or the next day’s training session. Our feelings are nothing more than a conditioned response to our life to that point. These experiences can be so profound in our human lives as to be crippling in our relationships and our lives as a whole. Your emotional experience is the core of what makes you unique.
Conditioned response is the basis of how we train horses. A horse only knows what it has been exposed to. Whether good, bad or indifferent, a horse is “trained” through the concept of conditioned response. The more you think about it, the more sense it makes. If you close your eyes and think of a certain emotional event in your life, you will have some gut level feeling associated with that thought. This is the same for a horse. When they are presented with something, they either associate the stimulus with something they know, and with that comes an awareness, or it is something they don’t know, and they are then drawing on their past experiences with you, or humans in general. If you use this understanding of your emotional experiences in life, it will allow you to have compassion for your horse’s journey. It will help you grasp the magnitude of the concept.

This does not mean, however, that we are just like our horses. Both horses and humans are born with instincts that come from biological evolution. We also share this emotional conditioned response that causes us to have certain behavior. For horses, this comes from their interaction with other horses, humans and the world in general. The crucial way that we differ is that humans have the ability to reason. We have the ability to communicate with other humans, self examine, read, and learn from experiences that others have had. There is not a horsey support group for yearlings who were kicked by their mothers. We have the unique capacity to take concepts and apply them to events other than the moment we are currently in. We can revisit our past experiences and try to learn from them. When applying this in our own lives, it can be very challenging, but it is possible. I know I struggle with it, but it is all part of the journey.

As the leader in the relationship with our horses, we carry the responsibility of reasoning. This is a great privilege. In a sense, we are the ones who control our horse’s “feelings.” We aren’t able to control the conditions of our own lives, especially in our formative years, and we are left with years of trying to reason our way into happiness. We do have the opportunity to be thoughtful and condition a horse that is willing, trusting and confident. I know that there are parts of my personality that I haven’t been able to properly address in my day to day life, such as my lack of patience. In my training I find it easier to master simply because it affects the relationship with my horses. I can see the needs in my horses or even in my students in that setting, and meet them in a way that I have not been completely successful accomplishing in my personal life.

Every day I am trying to become a better daughter, friend, human and trainer. It is certainly an uphill battle, but nothing worth doing comes easily. This particular realization was significant, and I am excited to see how it will strengthen both my process and my message.