Expert Advice-Saddle-horse Training-Right From The Outset

Hi Smooth riders all. Goran Bockman here to help you out.

An Icelandics Fan
Admin and Gait Keeper of Greater Gaiter
Goran Omar Bockman

Today I’ll be talking about how to correctly start your Saddle Horse under saddle.

I will walk you through the process of starting off at the right foot, so you will be able to train him right, right from the start .

Create a training plan

A training plan is a great tool to help you progress in an orderly manner. That said, you created it and you can, of course, change your plan as needed.

Break down every step forward into many small steps.


Flexibility is crucial.

You will find, you often need to adapt your plan, to a flora of problems that arise, in the course of the training.

An example, you’re starting to teach the horse to lunge, but it turns out, he is scared of the lunge line. Perhaps he sees before him a flying Dragon.

You need to take a step back and desensitize your horse to the line (or Dragon as the case may be).

Fill every step forward with intent and consistency!

Every step in the training should be a stepping stone for the next step in the progression.

So, for instance, you begin to establish you leadership by briskly walking up to the horse, with your right hand raised.

In response your horse backs up. The very millisecond he starts to move backwards you say “back up”. Say it with authority, but not in an angry voice.

What happened?

What happened there?

1. You started to assert yourself as his leader, and

2. you established a word cue that you’ll always use, when you want him to back up!

Intent and consistency!

Establish your leadership

Make sure your horse is very clear on who the leader is. To accomplish this, you need to know it very well too.

Also ensure that what ever you planned, actually happens.

Not just sometimes but ALL the time! Let things take time. Stay patient and positive at all times. And yes LOVE him, but keep it firm.

Always have a Mini-plan

Part of your plan must be to have a mini-plan, for all you are doing. For every moment of training.

Read that again please and never lose sight of it. Always have a plan!

Always have what? That’s right folks à plan for every step!

Everything you do from now on is training, to the horse.

You can train it to respect and obey you, or to disrespect and disobey you. The best relationship is built on mutual respect and trust.

If the horse fails to obey you, never ever leave it there!

Why? Because that would be teaching it disobedience!

A happy horse is key! Below is an image of a key,  ie a happy horse.

Introducing Friða, an Icelandic mare, one month into the training here.
A 5 year old Icelandic just finding the Tölt.

Firmness and consistency, then, are keys to success.

The best leader of a herd is kind but firm and will never tolerate disobedience.

Kindness and rewards are equally important.

Keeping your horse happy and trustful of you must be at the forefront of everything you do.

Rewards encourage learning

So be quick to reward, if not with treats, as I prefer to do, then with an intensely happy praising voice.

Gently rubbing the horse’s sweetspots, at the same time, makes it all the more pleasurable.

Talk to him/her at all times

Talking to your horse helps to build trust and obedience, in him. It also, generally, calms him or her, and makes it less likely to spook.

Framework set!

We have now set the right framework. Following this framework will make learning easy and pleasant and, not least important, safe.

Firm and Consistent, but Kind and Encouraging; those are the indispensable corner-words of true Horsemanship.

OK so here’s my plan for

Week 1/ Day 1

Establish your leadership. From today your horse will become your happy and willing servant, and best friend too!

Here’s how I do it. I’m now assuming the horse is raw, but used to being around people.

Fetching the horse may be a challenge

First I fetch him in the pasture. Sounds straightforward right? Mmm, it may or may not be. Horses have an uncanny way of sensing that something, possibly life threatening, is afoot.

Assuming this is our first meeting I approach him at a normal pace. I confidently walk right into his space. No pussyfooting.

He doesn’t know me yet so will likely back away. Good, he should. But I also want to establish our friendship, right away, so I’ve brought some treats for him.

Tease his interest

If he’s (this imaginary horse is a He) reluctant to take it at first, I would give some to the other horses, just to tease his interest. Nope didn’t work. So I walk around him, treat in hand.

Patience and calm wins the day

Eventually he will succumb to the demands of his palate, and accept the offering. Let it take the time it takes.

On occasion, I’ve followed a horse for over an hour, just keeping up the smalltalk.

Finally, he will decide that I’m not out to eat him, or even beat him, but to treat him.

See there, high level horsey poetry lol.

Slip on halter as horse eats

As he was taking his treat I deftly slipped the halter onto his head. Give him some more, to calm any upset nerves. Keep talking in a low and soothing voice.

I’m assuming now that the horse has been led before.

So some treats, at suitable intervals, will keep him following me.

Stop and stay

From time to time I stop him. The word cue I use is “stop”, and I combine that with a visual cue. Normally I lift the lead rope as cue and stomp my foot to clarify.

Having given the treat, I face the horse and tell him “stay”. I back away a few steps.

If he moves I twirl the lead rope saying “back up” and again “stay”. When he obeys, lots of praise and more treats.

What is my intention?

What’s my intention with this training (yep basic training going on) do you think? Give it some thought please. I’ll be waiting right here.

That’s right! It’s about taking control of the horses movements! Replacing your horse’s plans with your plans.


This concludes day 1 of week 1. Your horse will have lots to think about, so when your happy with it, call it a day. Make sure you end on a happy note.
In the next article I’ll cover the rest of first week training,  and further, so stay tuned folks.

Please leave your questions and other comments below.

Best Saddle-gaited Horse-On Planet Earth Part 3.

An Icelandics Fan
Admin and Gait Keeper of Greater Gaiter
Goran Omar Bockman


Hello there Smooth Riders. Goran Bockman here. Hope you did some exciting riding today and that you’re all doing well.

Gather round the campfire folks and I’ll tell you all about my and Bleikur’s (Geysir’s) further adventures.

If you haven’t yet read parts 1 and 2 you may wanna do so first.

Here are the links:

Best Saddle-gaited Horse-On Planet Earth! Part 1.

Best Saddle-gaited Horse-On Planet Earth, Part 2.

A jittery drive home

Let me tell you my mind was whirling, as I drove from Denmark to Sweden. Loading Bleikur onto the trailer had been surprisingly painless, but I knew what he was capable of.

I’m not ashamed to admit, I was scared of this compact 13 hh racer. All but the very bravest of you guys would have been too. Come on admit it.

A horse that easily plows thru solid fences is not going to think twice about breaking out of a trailer. So every time I heard a rumble, back in the trailer, my heart stuck in my throat.

I lost count on the number of times I had to stop and check that he hadn’t broken loose. The 8 hr journey ended well tho.

When we finally arrived at our destination, and had safely installed him in his cosy stall, I let out an audible sigh of relief. But this was to be my last day of safety, for a month to come.

A nightmare begins

Next morning my nerves had all but uncurled. A cautious optimism was my mood for the day. Yes friends, I know what you’re all thinking. What was I thinking

My only excuse is I’m an incorrigible optimist. Or should I plead insanity?

Oh and I was still only 25. I’m wiser now… I hope. Nah not really.

Now most people, I believe, tend to classify optimism as a positive quality. Little do they know! Optimism is often an accessory to manslaughter, I tell you!

Bleikur and I had a long chat,in his stall, where I laid out the law to him. Actually he was a sweet animal, from the ground at least. He even allowed me to put his head on my shoulder and he stood calmly as I was putting on his gear.

He had that cute, innocent look of the cuddly pony that people mistake Icelandics for. Had he in fact been a pony, his owners might have named him Winnie the Pooh, or maybe Paddington, he was that cute. Only with a rider on his back would his Mr Hyde side emerge.

I take it you’ve all read the classic horror story of the nice Dr Jekyll and his evil alter ego, Mr Hyde? No? Then you have a few cosy creepy hours of reading, waiting for you.

A horse quake

Bleikur stood like a statue as I mounted him. Only a slight twitching of his muscles alerted me to what was to come.

To this day I don’t know what he must have been thru to become that bundle of raw, rattling nerves.

As I gently cued him to a walk he took a few hesitant steps. A few more tentative strides and then he stopped, frozen to the spot.

Any sane person would have dismounted, when Bleikur began to quake, but then I never did claim sanity, did I? Like I said, I’m an incurable optimist!

Add to that, my earth moving love of horses and you may understand why I just sat there, waiting for the inevitable eruption!

The eruption

And erupt he did. He just may have set a new world record, of acceleration, right there. My head was thrown back, like it was hit by a cannonball.

Again I was adrift, in a raging storm, as Bleikur bolted for all he was worth. I had read somewhere that cueing for more speed could help you regain control of the horse so I tried that. Sadly my horse had missed out on that part so no deal.

Scared to death, but thrilled

All round Bleikur was one of the fastest horses I ever rode. Part of my boiling brain took time out to be thrilled silly. His sheer power, going from full to double speed, was truly overwhelming!

In Iceland this hyper explosive type of horse is often named “Geysir”, you know this tall ray of hot water that, intermittently, erupts from the ground.

Again the cool, observing, part of my brain made a decision. I really would rename this raging ride, Geysir. I was so darn impressed with him, it all but drowned out the fear in me.

We were fast approaching the heavily trafficked main road, and heart-stopping fear was called for.

A no brakes horse-quake

I had learned, from my ride, in Denmark, that this ‘horse quake’ simply had no brakes on him. For that reason I didn’t even attempt pulling on the rains.

That lack of action may have saved both our lives. Had he been occupied with struggling against the reins, tossing his head right and left, he might have, fatally misjudged the speed of the fast oncoming car!

As it was, the car just missed us by a hands breadth. I glimpsed shear shining terror, in the driver’s eyes, as he flew past us. I’m confident he saw the same, reflected in mine.

A God awful, awesome horse

Bleikur didn’t even slow down for a split second. Again there was this weird pride sneaking up on me. What a God awful, awesome horse I had bought for myself!

I’m not sure I actually did laugh (a madman’s shrill laughter I suspect), but I sure felt like it!

Like a warm spring morning

You know that bubbly thrill that grips you on the first warm morning of spring. When the sun is blazing from a clear sky, and all bird-kind is tuning into the ringing jubilation of nature.

That’s how I felt, jubilant and so intensely alive, as only the narrowest escape from death can make you feel.

Why did I go on?

Those of you who have so kindly followed my fearsome first steps into the Gaited Horse world must wonder; how come I continued?! Right?

I’ll take your silence as a yes my friends. Well “intensely alive” is a major part of the answer. I’m probably a type A person, who only feels fully alive in the presence, or at least in the vicinity, of death.

Wow that was a drastic way of putting it, but there’s much truth to it. Another crucial part is of course the smooth gait, whether that be a Running Walk, or a Rack, or Tolt.

Hooked on Tolt and danger

I was hooked on Tolt already and the thrill of mortal danger only added to my fascination.

Bleikur galloped for a mile or so longer, but I sensed he was calming down. Adjusting my seat, I straightened up in the saddle and, wow there it was!

Looked something like this.

As if on cue, he broke off the canter, and just flowed into the sweetest, smoothest Tolt! The speed remained the same, but the knee action got much higher.

This was the first time he had offered anything but a fast gallop or a walk. The thrill of his super smooth Tolt totally enraptured me.

Bleikur had become Geysir now, my pride and joy, and I loved him to death already!

A huge smile glued to my face, I just sat drop dead still in the saddle, so as not to disturb Geysir’s perfect 4beat.This frviends is the meaning of bliss!

Geysir went back to school

Don’t worry friends; I’ll not bore you with the gory details of one month’s NDEs (Near Death Experiences). Finally, after countless, narrow, escapes from death I had had enough!

Geysir was going back to school. IF he had indeed been broken in, he must have played hooky two thirds of the time.

Lesson 1 a catastrophe

Geysir had no skills yet, but lunging seemed a good place to start. He disagreed and broke loose, leading me on a four hour long, wild goose chase.

That ended with him bogged down in a swamp.

Important lesson learned was that running away could end in catastrophe. After that Geysir never again bolted with me.

Starting from the beginning

I decided to start over, right at the beginning. We went over all the phases of breaking a horse in.

Leading, on a halter, and stopping on cue, took us a week to perfect. To stop and remain standing calmly was the problem.

Horses are flight animals, true, but Geysir was extreme.

When forced to stand still, he was so jittery you’d think he grew up among Zebras, on a Lion infested savannah.

So our progress was slow in the beginning, but I was in no hurry. The Tolt he’d showed me was well worth waiting for.

It was already clear to me that I had a first rate horse on my hands.

Never pull back on the bit.

Accepting the bit was the next possible stumbling block. When riding him I avoided putting any pressure at all on the bit.

It was just there, in his mouth. The reins weren’t even attached to it, but to a light halter, worn underneath the bridle.

After a couple weeks I fastened them to the halter and the bit both. Still I never pulled back on the bit.

When I finally fastened reins to the bit, Geysir had already learned to stop, on seat and thigh cues alone.

Six weeks after bringing him to Sweden we won our first competition, the basic dressage program, at the Nordic Championships in Norway. I couldn’t have been happier had it been the Grand Prix.

Geysir helped me develop my training module.

After training Geysir I have used the same method on all the horses I break in.

It produces a horse that’s feather light on the bit and also extremely responsive to the weight shift cues.

This is exactly how I want my horses. It also makes them easy to ride for inexperienced riders.

Given his extreme willingness (10/10) Geysir always remained a one man horse tho.

To me he was the Best Saddle-gaited Horse-On Planet Earth!

China’s Celestial Horses Were Gaited Pleasure Horses!

An Icelandics Fan
Admin and Gaits Keeper
of Greater Gaiter
Goran Omar Bockman



The Celestial Horses of China were outstanding, gaited pleasure horses,  as we can see from very realistic figurines of their time.

The breed was also known as Tian Ma or Ferghana Horses. As the name suggests they came from the Ferghana Valley,  in current Afghanistan.

Below is a first rate specimen of this exceptional breed, the Celestial Horses.

To a gaits keeper, like myself, it’s extremely exciting to note that the Heavenly horses were gaited. Superbly gaited in fact!

Just take a look at the “flying horse of Gansu” below.


It is often described as “galloping” across the skies!

Not so! That’s a super Flying Pace on him!


Superb gaiter-superior war horse


These superb gaiters were also the most superior war horses of their time.


The celestial horses,  having been gaited is exciting!


Why is the fact that they were Smooth-gaited so exciting? you ask.

Because, it goes against the general consensus among equestrians.


We refute the general consensus on the lateral gaits.


Most agree that the smooth gaits are the result of a late mutation. I, and many other gait lovers, strongly refute that claim.


Instead, we hold that the Pace, being the mother of the lateral (smooth) gaits, is a natural gait, as opposed to a bred in gait.


It has been present in every breed of horses. Only in the past 500 years has the Pace,  and with it the 4 beat gaits been bred out of many horse breeds.


We say that because the Pace is present in many species that were never bred on by man. Zebras and Elephants are good examples. Invariably a pacer possesses a 4 beat gait as well.


World’s first war over horses was caused by an export ban.


Also referred to as Han Xue Ma {horse that sweats blood} these divinely gaited horses, were first imported in the era of the Han dynasty (206 Bc-220 Ad).


Following a ban on further exports, by the Ferghana Turkmen, a number of their excellent animals were raided by the Chinese. This is known as the world’s first war over horses.

The Chinese troops, sent by Emperor Wu, were defeated. They only got their hands on a few of these beauties in the first war.


The second war was a success


In the second war, over horses, the Han troops, some 60.000 of them, really put their backs into it.

This time they soundly defeated the Turkmen. More than 3000 horses were captured by Emperor Wu’s troops in this successful war.


Do the Turkmen keep their Akhal Teke as pets?


It is rumoured that the Turkmen treat their noble  Akhal Teke horses, the modern name of the breed, as pets.

They are said to keep them indoors, thru the cold winters, to maintain the metal shine of their coats lustrous.

View the modern Celestial Horse below.

One can only imagine the grief that must have gripped their owners, at the loss of so many of their treasures.


A disastrous 2000 mile trek to China


Sadly, due to the 2000 mile march, back to the,  then Chinese capital,  Chian, only a third of the invaluable horses reached China!

The harsh weather and the unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan, had taken its toll.


Modern breeding studs were set up


A high standard breeding program was soon instituted. Within only a few years it was producing an exceptional stock of the heavenly horses.

In addition, good numbers of high quality half breeds were being produced.


Did the breeding program save China?


This successful endeavor of Emperor Wu may have kept China safe from invasion, by the combined forces of fearsome Huns and Mongols, for more than a thousand years.

Instead the massive military might of the Huns were spent on invading the Roman Empire.


The Akhal Teke,  today’s celestial horse.


Today’s Turkmen Akhal Teke is a close relative, of the Celestial horses. The Arabian horse too has its share of celestial blood.


Famous men on great celestial gaiters


The famous stallion of Alexander the Great, Bukephalos, who carried him across the world in endless campaigns, is also claimed to have been an Akhal Teke.


The daunting Mongol Emperor, Genghis Khan, too would have been mounted on a golden Akhal Teke.


Horses too are unfit as senators!


Caligula, one of the most despotic Roman Emperors, was infamous among his subjects for having married his own sister, Drusilla.


His downfall, however, only came about when he granted his (believed to be) Akhal Teke stallion, Incitatus, the greatest honor ever bestowed on a horse.

The Emperor appointed his stallion a member of the Roman senate!

This unpardonable insult so enraged the proud class of senators that a successful plot to murder him was set afoot.


The Parthian Horse


Another strain of the glorious Celestial Horse breed was known as the Parthian horse, in Greco-Roman times.

The awe inspiring Cataphracts


The awe inspiring,  Parthian heavy cavalry, the Tanks of their time, were known and feared as the Cataphracts.

The Cataphracts were the only force, in the ancient world, who consistently defeated the Roman cohorts.

The only breed, capable of carrying the heavily armoured Parthian cavalry men to battle, was the beautiful, yet so powerful, gaited pleasure horse, known as the Parthian horse.


Rome grew stronger with cavalry


After the Romans had finally got the upper hand in the ongoing Parthian wars, don’t ask me how, Cataphracts were rapidly incorporated into the Roman armies.

The new, heavily armored, cavalry added decisive strength to the fighting forces of Rome.

They are said to have been instrumental in the conquests of both Britannia and Germania.


Advantages of a gaited war horse


Let’s stop here for a while my friends and have a look at the possible advantages of riding a Smooth-gaited mount to war. What do you think they may have been?


The accuracy of a bowman would certainly have been greater, at a flowing Tolt or Rack, as opposed to a bumpy Trot, or an unsteady canter.


A lancer too would have found it very much easier to pinpoint bullseye as he thrust his lance into an infantry soldier’s chest.


Cutting downward, a swordsman would have had a few, but crucial, fractions of a second extra to steady his aim.


In a hot mêlée, these particles of time could certainly make the difference, between life and death. 


What else? Yes of course, stamina!


Changing gaits is resting to a Gaiter, so when the non gaited mounts were croaking it would still have had energy to spare.

The cavalry men too, having been spared the discomforts of the less than smooth gaits, would have outlasted their less fortunate enemies.


These invaluable advantages are in themselves, enough to explain the military prowess of the feared, Han era, cavalry.

Best Saddle-gaited Horse-On Planet Earth, Part 2.

An Icelandics Fan
Admin of Greater Gaiter
Goran Omar Bockman






To read part 1 go here;…net-earth-part-1

Two months after Geysir had so nearly killed me I sold him and headed off to Denmark, looking to buy myself a new horse.

My rather cheeky farrier friend, Peter Mesch, was working at a big stud there, shoeing and training the horses. There were more than 200 horses at the stud, many of them for sale he’d told me.

Basuto Pony gaiting.
I was looking for this type of horse.

I found my horse

Peter brought out a smallish,  yellow dun that he claimed fit my requirements. “He’s very willing” he commented on the horse, named Bleikur after the colour, Bleik álottur.

As I had boldly asked for a willing horse I just nodded and approached the cuddly looking horse. Looking into his eyes I received rather a cold stare in return.

A love of pranks and its consequences

Peter’s rather wolfish smile was a bit unsettling, as I knew he had a love of pranks. That smile had advertised many a practical joke in the past, but I wasn’t going to show him nerves, so I just stroked Bleikur for a bit and then proceeded to mount him.

Have you ever found yourself in this, old style Barber Shop chair that can be elevated by pumping on a pedal? If yes, you will have an idea of that growing sensation I felt, having mounted Bleikur.

Tensing up, he appeared to rapidly grow at least two hands taller. Then, shifting his weight from one foot to the next, he began to tremble. I knew then that I was in big trouble.

A very short walk

I shot Peter a fake smile of confidence and rode off at a walk. That walk lasted thru perhaps four or five rapid steps, before Bleikur bolted and set off at a bone breaking speed.

Pulling back on the reins only increased the speed and my, admittedly, feeble attempts at side pulls were duly ignored.

You’ll remember my friends that this budding calamity occurred only a couple of months after the previous attempt at my life and those frightening events were still fresh in my mind. OK, I admit it. I panicked!

My heart was in the race

I hope then that it won’t reflect badly on my character if I reveal that my racing heart was charging head-to-head with the bolting horse, and pulling away!

Yes I was scared sh**less! So shoot me! I tell you, a bolting horse, with no apparent breaks on it, is daunting to say the least!

Effectively dealing with fences

Uh oh! Up ahead, a very sturdy looking fence was fast approaching! Dejectedly pulling at the reins produced a less than hope inspiring response.

Bleikur just shook his head at me. The meaning was crystal clear. No way he was going to stop, or even slow down for that matter.

Just hanging in there.

All I could do now was cling to his back, with all I had. Being thrown at this speed would shatter every bone in my body! I had grown rather fond of them, over the years, so my effort was first class determined.

To give credit where credit is due, the horse was not trying to throw me. Had he tried he would surely have succeeded.

Kaboom, we crashed thru the fence, and there was me assuming position to clear a jump. Silly me!

A Superhero Horse is born

This was not a Jumper! This was a Fence Breaker, a Boy Racer, an Outlaw! A weird exhilaration gripped me, as we were surrounded by some fifty prancing young stallions.

It looked a bit like in the video above but much faster and wilder!

Enticed by Bleikur irreverent incursion into their home turf, they happily followed him. He was their new hero.

I too received some friendly admiration, but was too busy, clinging to the saddle,  to respond in kind.

Hitting the fence at full on, determined speed, had barely slowed down this mini-tank of a horse.

But I could feel him picking up extra speed, now,  excited by the roiling, tumultuous, mass of Testosterone tense stallions. (Pardon the mass of alliterations friends.)

Black Stallion revisited

It was a one against all race now. I almost felt a little proud of Bleikur, as he began to pull ahead. Made me identify with Alec of the Black Stallion books, if you’re from the generation that used to read them.

Galloping at full speed thru the wide meadow only took seconds, or so it seemed.

There was the other end of the fence already. This 13 hh, compact horse, just plowed thru it like it was made of Papier Mâché! It didn’t even slow him down. I was truly impressed.

What a Rush

A reluctant affection for this warrior horse was sneaking thru the fear and exasperation, coursing thru my body.

What a rush it was! Having crushed the fence at both sides, Bleikur was out on the main road now and the Herd followed him devoutly.

Drivers, coming from both directions, hit the brakes hard as they found the road ahead blocked by our herd. The noise of galloping hooves on Tarmac was so loud it even blocked out my fear.

But now the end was near

A minute later an unfenced meadow came in sight and our herd faithfully followed Bleikur onto it.

It soon began to fall away rapidly and some of the horses were stumbling, and slowing down, as the slope got increasingly steep

Not so my Bleikur. Yes my Bleikur! That’s what he had become. He just kept at it, full speed downward and… Oh My God!

The mother of all fences!

Down below another fence came in sight, and this barrier he could not clear. If he tried, he would surely kill us both!

A net fence, designed to keep out the deer, it towered before us. Must have been twice my height at least.

Sensing that Bleikur would not stop I crouched in the saddle. Bracing myself for the impact I closed my eyes. I may have sent a desperate prayer to a God I didn’t believe in.

Saying my last goodbyes

This was it. Goodbye world! That monster of a fence was designed to slice us both up into neat, diamond shaped, lumps of red meat for the foxes to feast on!

Saying my last goodbyes I let out a long held sigh, preparing for my death.

Suddenly I was hurled, hard onto Bleikur sweaty neck. It took me a lingering second to realize that the panting horse had finally stopped. His sweaty forehead was pushed tight into the fence!

Epilogue and a new beginning

It’s with a distinct sense of pride that I inform you now friends… I never once wet my pants during this ordeal!

If I had I would likely have forgiven myself, because never before, nor after, have I been as frightened.

So what do you suppose happened after this epic journey?

Yep you guessed it! I bought the bugger. I simply had to! Peter would’ve been laughing still if I hadn’t, and I probably would have had to give up riding horses.

Me, Goran Bockman, riding Bleikur 2 months after buying him.

What followed after I brought Bleikur to Sweden is material for a Pulitzer prize novel.

I’ll tell you that story, in part 3, if you ask me nicely.