3 Ways to not Mess up your Horse

How paying the right kind of attention can change everything


It’s a problem, though, if my horse is paying attention to eating grass and I want to lead them to the arena or ride them down the trail. How do I get them to pay attention to what I want them to do? 


These are three actions I teach to get things started.

  • If your horse is already eating grass, get them to move.

  • If you’re leading your horse, walk forward and ask your horse to go with you.  

  • If you’re riding, use one rein to ask your horse to turn.


Those are only three of over ten different to-do’s I teach with horses that eat grass when you want them to do something else. Getting your horse to stop eating grass and get moving depends on many subtleties in the individual relationship between you and your horse.


Listening to your horse helps, and you probably already do this. But when your horse is saying “I want to eat grass,” and you can’t get them to do anything else, what’s a person to do?


It actually starts with paying a special kind of attention that goes two ways.


I don’t know about you, but when the teacher interrupted me daydreaming in class and said I wasn’t paying attention, I really didn’t like her very much. I know I was just a kid, but I thought she was kind of mean.  So when a horse gets jerked away from the grass, I wonder if they feel like that, too. 


It’s a big problem when a horse won’t stop eating grass when we want them to do something else.  We need them to do things but we don’t want to be like the teacher, especially if it makes the horse not like us.


The difficulty with the teacher in that story is that they were paying attention to me in ways that totally disempowered me. It made me slouch at my desk and hang my head. What if I could pay attention to my horse in ways that empowered me?


Let me help you pay the kind of attention to your horse that empowers you. 

To apply for a complementary strategy call, click HERE.


The real trouble here actually is not that my horse is paying too much attention to eating grass. The real problem is that I don’t want to be like that teacher. I’d like to be something else.


My student Carol learned to be something else one day even though she barely missed getting derailed by disempowering attention. Leo, her schoolmaster horse, kept getting the wrong lead. It happened every single day. She got so worried about doing it wrong that was all she could think about.  She was afraid her horse was getting disgusted with her because she was messing up so much. It was so disheartening that the next time she brought her horse for a lesson, she did not want to even try to canter.  


Has something like that ever happened to you? When all you can think about is what you don’t want to happen? Have you ever been so discouraged that you just about gave up?


Fortunately Carol did not give up. Once she learned to pay attention to the right thing, she became so empowered that her horse picked up the correct lead every time.


There are so many things to pay attention to, so many things to remember, that it’s hard to know which one is the most important and what will work the best.


The thing we don’t pay attention to and take time to do is Loving Presence.


Once my student Elizabeth learned how to turn her attention to Loving Presence in herself and her horses, she was able to cast aside the negative self-talk that she’d previously been telling herself every time she rode.  This one amazing result of many new discoveries changed everything in her life.


What is Loving Presence anyway? We all know what love is so it would make sense that if  we just love our horse and pay attention to them, everything will be fine, right? Wrong. Because there’s a lot more to it than we think.


We think we know what Loving Presence is but we can’t do it unless we know exactly what to pay attention to, just like knowing what the most important thing to notice is when our horse is eating grass.   Is it this thing or that thing or the other thing?

I don’t know what it is for you, because it depends on a whole complex combination of things that have come before in your relationship with your horse.


If you’d like to speak with me on a complementary call about how to pay the kind of attention

that empowers you to get real results with your horse, click HERE.


When we pay the right kind of attention, things don’t get muddled up. Communication with loving presence empowers clarity so that our horses know what we want. We become better riders and make fewer mistakes.

You can choose what you pay attention to



Sometimes it feels like we don’t have much choice about what we pay attention to.   Have you ever had your mind get stuck on a tune from a song you’ve just heard and you can’t get the tune out of your head?  It’s like that.


It often feels like attention has a mind of its own. It’s hard to pay attention to purely one thing and not have a hundred other thoughts racing in and out of my head.


But when I notice where my attention is directed, instead of just paying attention to all the thoughts I’m thinking, everything changes, just like it did years ago for a student I taught at one of the first ever United States Dressage Federation Instructor workshops.


When my student first entered the arena, her reins were tight and her expression tense.


Even so, she was attentive to my instructions about teaching her horse to leg yield, a dressage movement where the horse moves sideways.


She correctly shifted her weight and used one leg to tell the horse to move sideways, one rein to keep his shoulders straight and the other rein to ask for flexion.


But the horse kept going straight and not sideways.


Frowning, the rider stopped. Her horse turned their head around to the side and looked her straight in the eye. That made her catch her breath.

In that moment, she had two choices: 1. Pay attention to her horse  2. Ask her horse put their head back to the front.


Her choice of #1 proved priceless. 


Her eyes welled up and she began to cry. She told me that her attention was on wishing she was riding her older horse and how he would have known just what to do. He had died two weeks beforehand.   When the horse she brought to the workshop looked her in the eye, it hit home that she wasn’t paying the right kind of attention to them.


When she dried her tears, her hands softened on the reins. Her horse rounded his neck and they trotted right out sideways in a lovely cadenced leg yield.


That horse and rider brought home the realization that everyone has a choice about what to pay attention to.


The thing is, you just need to know how to prevent your attention getting stuck on topics and thoughts that disempower you. When you have the skills to do this, you don’t mess things up with your horse.  You can do what you really want to do and your horse will join you willingly.


What if, instead of always worrying about messing up your horse, you could be paying attention to that sweet connection that you yearn for each time you ride? 



Want to learn more? Figure out how that sweet connection could happen for you?

To speak with me on a complementary strategy call, click HERE.



There’s another way, a real solution that feels good deep inside, to not mess up your horse and do things together with them truly connected. 


We just have to learn how. Everything you’ve just read in this e guide moves you towards the ultimate foundation of paying the right kind of attention. 


It’s time to stop the worry about messing up your horse. It’s time to pay attention to the yearning inside that says there’s a lot more you could do with your horse. If this is you, let’s talk.


It’s your time and your opportunity to get support for what you and your horse need to get that sweet connection you long for each time you ride.



What amazing things could be in store for you and your horse with the right kind of attention?

  To speak with me on a complementary strategy call and find out how that could happen,

click HERE.


Attention may be more subtle than we think

There are many things we can pay attention to with our horse that make a big difference. You already know this and I teach these, too. You do special things for them, too. You feed them the best hay and grain, you love on them, you scratch their itchy spots, you kiss their soft noses. 


You know you’re a good responsible horse owner when you take this kind of loving care.

How paying the right kind of attention can change everything

Thank you so much for picking up this e-guide! The next 20 minutes may be the most pivotal for you to not mess up your horse and do everything that you’ve been wanting to do with them. So sit back and read through this guide now. You’ll be glad you did!

Have you ever been afraid you’d do something to mess up your horse? Once we’ve had this thought, we worry. Sometimes it’s all we can pay attention to. If you’re anything like me, it eats at your insides and hurts to even think it might happen.

Years ago I used to worry that I’d screw things up and my horse would develop some bad habit like bolting or going above the bit. All my worries got worse the day my horse Shooby colicked and almost died. I kept wondering if it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t worked him as hard that day.

Whether your horse is young or a trained competition horse, being afraid of messing up your horse is one of the biggest problems I’ve seen with my students and clients in my over 40 years of teaching dressage, training and competing horses.

This e-guide is for you if:


You know your horse could do more, but you don’t see them doing things better as often as you like.  

You’ve ever felt that your horse should pay more attention to you.

You’ve ever worried that you might do something to mess up your horse. 

You’ve ever wondered why the methods that work for others don’t seem to work with your horse.

You feel stuck at your current level of riding.

You know what you want to do with your horse, but can’t seem to find the way to make it happen.

You’re having some success with your horse now but you know there could be much more.

Even if just one of these statements applies to you, it’s time for you to do something different.  It’s time to take action to change things. It’s time to pay attention to getting what you really want with your horse.


If you’d like to speak with me on a complementary call about how to pay the right kind of attention to not

mess up your horse and get to the results you want, click HERE.


By the time you finish reading this e-guide, you’ll be ready to tap into exciting new skills to get more results when you train, have more fun, and bring about elegant positive training. You’ll experience riding and working with your horse where a single thought can cascade into an abundance of amazing results.

In this e guide, I’m going to show you 3 things about attention that will help you not mess up your horse.


1.  Attention matters more than we think.

2.  What we pay attention to may be more subtle than we think.

3.  Attention goes two ways between us and our horse.

Attention matters more than we think

What is attention, anyway?


When you were a kid, did a teacher ever tell you, “you’re not paying attention?” It hurt and made you feel bad, didn’t it? Because you didn’t think you weren’t paying attention. It was just that in that moment something caught your eye. Then suddenly you’re being scolded for something you’re not doing. Was that not awful? (unfair and wrong?)


I’m here to tell you that you were paying attention. The teacher was wrong. It was just that you weren’t paying attention to what they wanted you to pay attention to. 

You may not have heard what they were saying, but you may have been paying attention to the trees blowing outside the window or dreaming of galloping a horse on a beach. They didn’t understand and maybe you even thought they were being just plain unfair and unkind.

Screen Shot 2021-01-03 at 5.55.26 PM

We’re always paying attention to something. 

Take a moment and try not to pay attention to anything. Do you see what’s in front of you? What comes to mind?  What are you thinking about? That’s what you’re paying attention to. You may even be paying attention to trying not to pay attention.

Everyone is always paying attention to something. How about your horse? Horses also are always paying attention to something, too. 


Attention. What is it anyway? It’s a lot more complex than the teachers told me (said) but we know from that story that we’re always paying attention, aren’t we?


What are we actually paying attention to?   


What if I could tell you that you could pay attention to your horse in a whole different way that will give you radically new results?


Let me help you discover your best next move to help you live you own radically new results. 

To apply for a complementary strategy session, click HERE.


For instance, My student Sandy finally figured out how to understand her horse after years of not knowing what was going on with him. Bailey used to just plod around and take forever to trot and sometimes would even not canter when she gave a leg aid. He transformed into a willing partner who would offer to canter if Sandy even thought about it. 

You pay attention when you do these things, too:


Brush dirt off their back

Choose the best brush to use

Pick manure out of hooves

Put the bridle on carefully

Buckle the girth

Put a foot in the stirrup

Ask your horse to trot 

If we’ve taken lessons, been in clinics, read horse books and watched instructional videos, we also pay lots of attention to all the stuff we’ve learned about how to ride better. We try to do it each time we get on our horse. I teach these techniques, too, and here are a few examples.

Sit up straight.

Keep your shoulders back.

Don’t lean too far forward.

Don’t ride in a chair seat.

Keep your back soft.

Keep your stirrups the right length.

Have an independent seat.

Have your reins the right length.

Keep your hands quiet.

What if there’s another whole level of paying attention?  


You know how when you kiss your horse’s nose, they breathe softly into your face? What if we could pay attention in a much more nuanced way like this, a way that would actually change our results with our horses? What if we could pay the right kind of attention and get unstuck and actually get to the next level?

If you’d like to speak to me on a complementary call about the kind of attention that gets

you unstuck and to the next level with your horse, click HERE.

When you pay attention to the right thing in the right moment, you and your horse feel like a team and tune in together, as my client Jessica learned to do with her horse Gitana. Not only did they go from a young green horse who could barely canter to competing in shows with success, but more importantly, as Jessica says, they learned too deeply connect with each other as a team.


What if I could teach you to pay attention to your horse in a whole new way?

 Attention is a two way street

I’m sorry to say this, but the type of stuff that’s on those lists above is not enough. There’s another level and there are points even more subtle than the ones that I outlined. Attention is a two way street.


For instance, How about your horse? Horses also are always paying attention to something, too.


Remember when your teacher thought you weren’t paying attention but you were? Well, your horse is just like that. In those times when you’re so frustrated and you want your horse to be paying attention, they really are. It’s just that they are paying more attention to something else besides what you want them to. 


You horse is just like you when you were in the classroom.

Attention is a 2 way street when you work with horses. That means that you attend to what your horse is paying attention to at the same time that you think of what you want him to do. How we pay attention when we work with horses matters more than we think, and it’s more subtle than we think.


Take a moment right now and envision what it’s like for a horse. Pause and take a breath before you continue reading. Now imagine you are a horse with four legs, a mane, a tail and ears that stick up on top of your head. You’re standing in a lush pasture. Your teeth grab and pull at blades of grass. The taste on your big tongue is delicious. You chew up the green grass, savoring how good it is. Then you lower your head and your lips search for clover or a special weed that’s your favorite. A biting fly buzzes your flank, so you swish your tail to get rid of it.  

These are just some of the things a horse may pay attention to.  


Delicious blades of grass

Savoring the taste

Searching for the most tasty clover or weed

Biting fly

Swishing tail

MaryKay Hasseman


MaryKay Hasseman has been helping people and animals understand each other for over 40 years. As a horse and dog professional with a unique array of other experiences (from studying with a Zen Priest to upper level dressage to clicker training), she often finds solutions that don’t readily occur to other trainers.


The diversity of these experiences gives MaryKay deep insight into how to apply the principles of joyful and positive animal training to her teaching. She is able to single out the most important thing to focus on in order to get the results students really want.


Her clients often realize unexpected results as they work with MaryKay.

To download this guide in a PDF click 3 Ways Not To Mess Up Your Horse