Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship LLC
with Sherry Jarvis
Way more than riding lessons. Become a better horseman.
Serving Horse Lovers Since 2003 

 Sherry on Sorry a foggy morning ride at home. Photo taken by Jane Perez
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Sherry has been writing horsemanship and motivational articles for several years. You can read a sampling here for FREE. Plus you can read success stories from her students.
There are More Articles and Training Tips by Sherry
and Lessons Learned by Students
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If you would like to submit your story and pictures just e-mail Sherry.
We would love to share your success with other horse lovers.

Sherry is interested in following your journey all the way. She will shed tears with you, encourage you, and celebrate the victories with you. She is not here for just one clinic or lesson but to support you in every way as you continue the journey.
If you heart beats with hoofbeats you cannot cut it out. 
Karen and Wyatt a Great Team
(students of Sherry)
Horsemanship Philosophy Articles by Sherry
Motivational and Success Stories

Articles Below include: 
"Teaching Feel" By Sherry Jarvis
"Words to Live By" Report on Ray Hunt Clinic By Sherry Jarvis
"Lesson Learned" By Cheryl Taylor
"Bonding With Your Horse At Camp" By Sherry Jarvis
"The Gift of Greatness" By Sherry Jarvis

Teaching "Feel"
It is every instructors challenge to communicate new information to students in an effective manner which translates into something applicable for the learner. It is even more challenging to teach people how to "feel" something. The reason this is so important is "feel" is all the horse has to go on.
When teaching "feel" one must learn how to improve the timing of the release with horses, because it is the "release that teaches". This is a simple concept to put down on paper but a much more difficult one to transfer to the hands and body of a rider.
As I watch horses being "schooled" at various events it is obvious when any horse is having trouble, the human is  keeping continuous pressure on the horse, or releasing at the wrong time. When the horse bucks or balks the human hangs on tighter, and tries to push through it. Sometimes they even bang their legs on the horse's sides or worse yet yank on the bit in frustration. The rider is unknowingly contributing to the behavior they are trying to fix.  
The key principles of horsemanship that must be applied to avoid the above scenerio are: "set it up and wait"; "reward the slightest try"; "less is more"; "less sooner instead of more later"; and the list goes on!
Knowing what something is supposed to "feel like" helps to solve a lot of problems. However you can't experience "feel" from the words on a page, by watching a video, or sending your horse to a trainer. But there are lots of exercises and simulations that you can do to set yourself up for success.
When a person finally "feels the feel" there is nothing like it, then both the horse and human smile with relief and joy. Those smiles are what keep me going down the road to help the next  group of open-minded folks.

A Report on Ray Hunt Clinic
“You’re not working on your horse, you’re working on yourself.”

“Believe in your horse, trust him!”
“Prepare to position for transition.”
“Always direct and then support.”
“Think, have a plan.”
“Ride the horse not your saddle, keep him between your legs and hands.”
“How little can you do?”
“Give your horse a job to do.”
“Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
“You’re alright, you’re doing ok.”

These are some of the phrases that stick in my mind as I reflect back on my participation in the recent Ray Hunt clinic at Chance Ridge in Elkhorn, NE hosted by Burton and Cindy Smith. Ray has tremendous insight about horses’ attitudes and how to get people to tune in to the horse and communicate with clarity. He doesn’t miss a thing. It felt like he could see right through every movement by reading both horse and rider with complete accuracy.

It was great to be in the presence of his spirit. He was not only friendly and funny, he was humble. He commented about not being righteous by saying, “no one is right and no one is wrong”. And then he taught us how the horse displays that to us. He gets you to think about things and always talks from the horse’s point of view. Perched from his chair above the arena he directed us with both encouragement and constructive criticism. Ray answered each person’s question with honesty, yet presented it in a way that it caused us to figure some it out on our own. I believe he was trying to empower us by causing us to think deeper about what we are doing and why.

The emphasis seemed to be on how important the little things are. Most of the time we tend to focus on the big things, like collection, sliding stops, lead changes, bits & tools etc. Ray reinforced to us that problems and flaws in our performance could be traced back to something very simple. He also stressed that we need to give the horse plenty of time, because many of us seem to get in a big hurry. The lesson was keep the basics going even while advancing and take the time it takes. It is very interesting how much the human is responsible for in the horse. I realized it is my job to adjust to fit the situation, and that no matter what happens I have to keep calm and focused with my first priority to honor the horse. The dignity of the horse comes first with Ray at all times. There is no place for a puffed up ego in good horsemanship.

I learned the value of transitions, preparing for them, and having a plan in your head at all times. A horse will wander around aimlessly without guidance. I saw a difference in the expression on the horse’s face when the rider had a plan and executed it. It seemed to build trust and confidence in the horse. You could tell when the message got from the horse’s mind through his emotions, and down through his body to his feet. Ray helped us achieve this by constant transitions. He didn’t let us do any one thing for very long, so it kept the horse’s attention and therefore helped improve the way the horse moved.

I realized when I ride at home I don’t make that many changes in a session, nor did I have a plan to do it. I may have gotten in a rut with the same old routine everyday. It was a good wake up call for me to get my horse more under me and more ready to do a lot of different things and make a lot of changes. I’m going to call it “the keep him guessing game.”

I will also remember Ray’s warning to us NOT TO DRILL our horses. He said when you drill a horse it doesn’t do any good. He said you have to learn how to recognize before it becomes a drill. You have to know when you’ve done enough and when to quit, and then you will make dramatic changes. If you will keep it interesting for your horse he will stay alive in his mind and in his feet. He will stay connected to you.

I noticed that over the three days Ray kept saying the exact same things over and over. It seemed to mean more and more each time he repeated it. There were people and horses attending from all different skills, levels and backgrounds. Even with the diversity Ray was conscious of each horse and rider and their different needs. Some may have gotten the message better than others, but I’m sure that everyone grew as a result of the experience whether an observer or participant. These principles and concepts take time to soak in and require lots of dedication and perspiration to bring them into practice.

One of my favorite parts of the clinic was watching the way Ray was able to communicate to his 18-year old grandson Kalon, and how well he listened. On the third day this young man was working with a mare in the colt-starting portion of the clinic because the girl who owned it had a little accident with this horse first thing that morning. It really impressed me that even if Kalon didn’t know whether the horse was ready or not, Ray knew, and he trusted his grandfather every step of the way.

Kalon put out a tremendous amount of effort with this horse and took the colt to the next level with his grandfather’s help. Kalon had both grit, perseverance, and confidence even though I perceived he was getting frustrated a few times, as this mare was what some may call “a difficult horse.” I don’t think Ray thought of her this way. He was extremely conscious of the self-preservation behaviors the mare held on to with perseverance. The horse came out good in the end, even though some of us may have been wondering about it a few times during the process.

The first two days of the class the colt starting looked deceptively simple. If we watch someone else make it look fairly easy we can get ourselves in trouble because we don’t realize that we didn’t comprehend all that we saw. I have noticed that the trouble in colt starting usually happens after the first few rides. Everything seems to be going along fine, and then all of a sudden something happens. Maybe we let our guard down too much, or the horse finally realizes what may be happening and chooses to react mindlessly out of fear. When this happens the horse needs immediate guidance with strong leadership from the human. And if we miss it, he’ll realize we don’t have the answers he needs, but Mother Nature does. So he may stop listening to us and start listening to his primal instincts. The dust is settling around us before we even realize it has started and we wonder what just happened. Ray stressed how we need to always pay attention because it could happen a year from the first ride. The effect our actions and interactions have on this horse may show now, and they may not show up until later, but they will show up. I realized how mentally, emotionally and physically fit we have to be to start a colt in a way that is best for each individual horse.

The horse learns what he lives and he lives what he learns. Every horse owner is a trainer whether they get paid for it in cash or not. Some do it better than others. Some are driven by ego and some aren’t. Some figure it out on their own, others need lots of help. Some are born with it and others have to work real hard at it. One thing I remember Ray said is “anybody can do this with enough heart and desire.” Ray inspired me to even greater excellence for the benefit of my friend the horse. I loved the way he kept calling the horse “his friend.” With great appreciation I want to thank Ray for making the world a better place for “our friend” the horse!

A hug and smile from Ray at the end of the class was enough for me to know that I was in the right place at the right time. My only disappointment was that there weren’t more horse people in attendance to absorb a little more knowledge and savvy from a great teacher and horseman and that it was over so quickly.

Sherry Jarvis


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One of the students from the clinic in Broken Bow wrote a very nice review of some things she learned this weekend. She is not a beginner to natural horsemanship and is quite an accomplished rider. I thought her comments were worthy to pass on to others as a learning tool. Here is what she wrote:

One thing I know that really came home this weekend is the importance of being physically fit for my horse. Pat Parelli says we need to be mentally, emotionally and physically fit for our horse. It is one of the 4 responsibilities of the rider.

On Saturday morning, Sherry had me working on the draw at a trot. She told me to run backwards and Shade just kept walking. Sherry kept saying faster and I kept trying. I finally was fast enough that I got two steps of trot from Shade. When Sherry asked what I had learned, I said I need to learn to run backwards! It is tough! I was sure I was going to land on my butt!! Lesson learned-walking backwards fast is not enough for us, practice running backwards without your horse until you can do it well.

Then in the afternoon Sherry did the Saddling and Mounting demo. I had a terrible time dragging myself onto Shade. At that moment I was remembering the discussion on this Board about mounting and mounting blocks. So I went home and thought about it. When I was preparing for my level one test (way back in 2003) I was walking 2 miles a day and stepping up on a chair leading with both legs 20 times every night. Then I was practicing my mounting from both sides every day. I passed the mounting with no difficulty. What happened? Well, no more walking, no more chair exercises and mounting one time from the left whenever I ride.

Sunday I shared this revelation with Sherry and the class and she gave me an extra tip. On the three bounces to mount, think of them as phases, each bounce a little springier. Sunday mounting went much better. But I know I need to get back into a conditioning program if I am serious about passing level two (and I am Sherry!) and upholding my responsibility to my horse.

My third BFO moment came Sunday afternoon when we were preparing for Bulls eye. Sherry was giving instructions and told us to focus on the track we wanted to make around our cone. I have been playing this game for 2 years focusing on the cone. I always thought Shade wanted to go to the center because that was the "sweet spot" where she could rest. Wrong! She was going to the cone because I was focusing ON THE CONE! When I focused on the circle track, she was happy to stay out there.

I had a wonderful time this weekend. I love watching Sherry ride, so glad she is healing and back in the saddle. Thanks Sherry!

The same student wrote a very good description of how to mount properly.

For mounting the steps are:
1. Move the saddle horn (pommel) back and forth to get the horse to balance himself.
2. Hold the "rein in the mane" (left hand for left side mount). Give the horse slack on the opposite side, and loose enough on mounting side that horse doesn't turn head.
3. Face the horse's tail and reach for the stirrup (right hand for left side mount), put foot in stirrup.
4. Hold saddle horn (pommel) with right hand and hop around until you are able to look your horse in the eye.
5. Bounce up and down 3 times, step up in the stirrup and position your hips forward. This is a power position if the horse moves, you can go with him.
6. Reach over the horse and rub/pet his right shoulder to "ask permission" to swing your leg over.
7. Swing your leg over and sit down gently, pick up other stirrup.

On step #5 (my numbering system) Sherry was coaching me to think of my 3 hops/bounces in phases and put more energy and spring into each bounce to use the momentum to help step up in the stirrup. Bounce #1 I'm thinking of getting on, #2 I will get up, #3 I promise to get up there! (Sherry-did I forget anything?)

For the Level One test, I had to step up and down 3 times before I could swing my leg over. Both sides. Each step up is a little more difficult. So I knew I had to attain a certain level of fitness to pass. Being the goal oriented person I am, I did what I needed. Then being the busy human I am, I fell back to my lazy ways.

In my younger days I rode 16+ hand horses, English. No trouble getting on. Now that I am "mature" I find it a challenge to mount a 14.3 hand horse, western with savvy. Sometimes it takes an event you make that lesson sink in. Sherry's clinic this weekend was such an event. I know where I want to go, and day by day I'm learning what it will take to get there.
Thanks Sherry, for being there.


There is no feeling better than when your horse spots you coming whinnies at you and leaves his friends or food to hang out with you. It is an honor to be viewed by your horse as a worthy partner who is fun & interesting. With this kind of  relationship you'd be able to do anything with your horse because of a foundation based on trust & respect.
Learning how to interact with horses with confidence, leadership and communication are the keys to bonding with a horse. The fastest way to learn these skills is to participate in a camp or clinic where you don't have anything else to do but bond with your horse. Lack of quality time with your horse is often your worst enemy.
You will have hands on help over several days to develop your skills as a loving and effective leader in order to get better performance results with your horse.
You will also have practice time alone with your horse, sharing and reflections times, plus group activities and relaxing trail rides. 
So if your horse has been fighting, ignoring or avoiding you, seems confused or in control, then it will be worth the time, money, and risk of feeling or looking foolish to gain an even deeper bond with your horse by attending a camp or clinic.
Because nature has designed the horse to seek out and follow a confident leader for survival, you can very quickly establish yourself as the one your horse will look to for guidance, safety, comfort, and play. As you become a herd of two with you as the fair yet firm alpha a lot of the problems you may have had with your horse will start to disappear.
As a horse owner I know you love your horses and are committed to giving them the best physical care possible. I'm sure you will agree that your horse also deserves your very best effort at communication as well.
As a facilitator and participant in these camps I have discovered that you will learn a lot about yourself through simple interactions with horses. You will begin to see the similarities of relating with horses to your own life experiences.
You will find this is more than a horse training camp. It may well become a life changing experience. The lessons learned will transfer as positive growth in other areas of your life. By the end of a camp you will have new wings of confidence that will help you fly to the next level in your horsemanship journey.  
You can read other testimonials by clicking on the above success stories. These are folks just like you who have discovered how to have an even deeper bond with their horse by gaining more confidence, leadership and communication skills. 

Gift of Greatness
As I think of our nation I think of greatness and the many men and women who have made it great. Few of us will ever do anything that will be recognized or remembered by more than a handful of people, but that doesn’t make us any less important or special. I believe each and every person is unique with value and has a purpose in life. However, true greatness comes along so rarely that when we see it we want to touch it and we want a chance to be a part of it.

There are a few horsemen who are truly great! They make it all look so easy and even magical. We can see the real connection they have with the horse. It is undeniable. A truly great horseman has a way of helping the horse feel good about whatever they ask him to do. They believe in the horse, that there are no good or bad horses, only horses that have or haven’t been given the chance to develop his own confidence and abilities with clear communication and positive motivation.

When a person wants to become an artisan of horsemanship it is sort of like developing a great concert pianist. It doesn’t happen over night just because you bought a nice expensive grand piano. It takes years of foundational lessons with hours of practicing scales, chords, finger positions, feel of the keys, rhythm, tempo, balance, softness, loudness, various styles, and so much more. Eventually the great pianist will progressively begin to play more difficult scores until the sounds they can produce from the ivory keys are polished into beautiful music. Producing a beautiful harmonious ride on a consistent basis which feels good to both the horse and rider is a gift of greatness. But you can bet there was a lot of hard work, patience, and practice which went into that greatness.

The art of horsemanship means developing a horse to be more than it could ever be without you. All horses have the potential to be beautiful partners moving confidently and gracefully while being ridden. With some horses it takes a great horseman in order to find that balance, not all horses can tolerate mediocre horsemanship.

There comes a point when all great horsemen may have to ask themselves these questions: “How can I help this horse become the horse that I seek? How can I help him feel better about what I am asking him to do and who I am asking him to be? After all you picked the horse he didn’t pick you.
Sherry Jarvis

"Not only does talent create its own opportunities, but intense desire will create its own talents." - Bruce Lee

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