31 episodes

"Be Your Best" is hosted by professional horse trainer and clinician, Phil Haugen. Inspired by his “1% better everyday" training philosophy, Phil explains the methods, mindset, and performance tips that drive continuous learning and growth in horsemanship, as well as in life.  Join us each week as Phil shares his experiences over the past 30 years in the horse training industry, discussing the methods that have helped him bridge the language barrier between horse and rider to enhance understanding and performance from foundation to finish.

Be Your Best Horsemanship Phil Haugen

    • Self-Improvement
    • 5.0, 10 Ratings

"Be Your Best" is hosted by professional horse trainer and clinician, Phil Haugen. Inspired by his “1% better everyday" training philosophy, Phil explains the methods, mindset, and performance tips that drive continuous learning and growth in horsemanship, as well as in life.  Join us each week as Phil shares his experiences over the past 30 years in the horse training industry, discussing the methods that have helped him bridge the language barrier between horse and rider to enhance understanding and performance from foundation to finish.

    Building Momentum

    Building Momentum

    Sometimes, you will run into training a horse where it seems like every day is a challenge. In those situations, you have to find a way to gain momentum. Even the smallest “wins” can help you build momentum, and the benchmarks of momentum will be different with every horse. For one horse, simply loping in a controlled circle may be the mark you’re striving for today. Let your horse have those small wins, because that is what builds consistent momentum.

    Every day presents an opportunity to generate momentum. When you get better at one area of your life, that momentum carries over into everything you do. Pick one thing to focus on, and spend the next 10 days creating a habit of getting a little bit better every day. If you want to create change, you have to create momentum.

    If you listen to your horses, they will tell you which areas you need to gain some traction on. Most often, you will be able to build momentum by simply slowing things down and reinforcing the habit of your horse using the thinking side of its brain.

    Remember, smooth is always fast. Slow down your hands, slow down your mind, and gain some momentum with simple exercises that build positive habits.

    There is a reason why my Level 1, 2 and 3 exercises have a specific order. They are designed to allow you to take it one step at a time and build momentum with the simplest exercises before moving on to the next one. The simpler you can keep things for your horse, the more times you can offer that release. The release is what you teach, and the release is what builds confidence and understanding in your horse. It is important to establish consistency and confidence with one exercise before moving on to the next.

    • 29 min
    On the Road with Phil Haugen

    On the Road with Phil Haugen

    Jump on the road with Phil Haugen as he shares some thoughts about horses, travel, and training while driving to his next clinic series. Listen closely for special preview of our 2021 clinic schedule!

    • 30 min
    Clinic Recap: Horsemanship & Barrel Racing with Ashley Schafer

    Clinic Recap: Horsemanship & Barrel Racing with Ashley Schafer

    When you get together with someone else in the training business and listen to their philosophies, you come away with a refreshed or even a brand new perspective.

    During our recent clinic with futurity trainer, Ashley Schafer, I learned so much from the way she applies horsemanship principles to her discipline of barrel racing.

    When you attend a clinic or ride with someone who is more advanced than you are, the goal is not to completely change your training philosophy. The goal is to give you bits and pieces that you can implement into your training program that will help you be more efficient. Everyone has a different way of doing things, and many people have success doing it their own way; but, by having an open mind, you give yourself the opportunity to pick up on one or two small adjustments that may help you get to that next level.

    More and more people are starting to understand the value of fundamentals in horsemanship, and I believe this is what makes the horse industry increasingly competitive. Although I am not a barrel racer, the fundamentals that I teach in my horsemanship program are what allows trainers to progress their horses’ potential to its peak. The same is true for other timed events, such as roping.

    Horsemanship is like building a brick house. When you look at a house’s foundation with the pile of bricks beside it, the project can look very overwhelming. Once you start building the house, you do it one brick at a time. After a few hundred bricks, this process inevitably gets boring. When you reach the point of boredom, it can be tempting to rush through the project just for the sake of getting it done. But, if the bricks you place against the house’s foundation are not laid correctly, the entire house is at risk of crumbling the further you progress through the project. The same is true with our horsemanship. If we do not establish those foundational elements with our horse and continue to reinforce them throughout our training process, we will not have any foundation to fall back on.

    One of the biggest foundational elements of horsemanship that we reinforced at our most recent clinic was the importance of establishing feel, timing, and balance.

    Your feel is undeniably valuable to a horse. Often times, we become too dependent on the bridle reins. When we keep constant tension on the reins, we never give our horses a chance to make the mistake. We micromanage them, and as a result, the horses never have an opportunity to learn right from wrong.

    When it comes to horses, we are not dealing with an animal that understands plain English. So, we have to provide them with cues that they understand to help them mentally and physically prepare for the responses we are about to ask for.

    There are four times in the barrel racing that we ask our horses to be reactive—coming down the alley and accelerating out of each barrel. Any time a horse is running as hard as they can, they are channeling their “flight” mechanism. When we ask a horse to run as hard as they can, we are asking for them to engage this reactive response. In order to make a successful turn, however, the horse has to be able to come back to the thinking side of its brain.

    When a horse is reacting, it is somewhat controllable—but, it is not looking for your cues. That “feel” when we sit and ask a horse to rate has to mean something. When we position our bodies in a way to prepare for a response, that positioning or “feel” has to be the mechanism that cues our horses to channel the thinking side of their brains.

    • 29 min
    Building Mental Maturity as a Trainer

    Building Mental Maturity as a Trainer

    One of the biggest mental challenges we run into as trainers is a lack of time. Most of us are faced with tremendously busy schedules, which makes it difficult to devote adequate time to our horses. It seems as though we never get “done”—we just find a place to stop and start again the next day. It took me a long time to get comfortable with this idea. Years ago, I was very hard on myself if there was something on my to do list for the day that didn’t get done. Now, I have become much better at setting realistic expectations for myself and my horses; and, this has come from developing mental maturity as a trainer.

    My attitude on Monday morning determines the mental state of my horses throughout the rest of the week. When I am rushing around or carrying my frustrations from one horse to the next, it is virtually impossible to make progress. But, if I approach my training by being soft, keeping my hands down, and taking my time, my horses become relaxed and more receptive to the responses I am asking for. The first thing I do when I step on a horse is to flex them laterally, yield their hindquarters, and get them comfortable with their one rein stops. I do this for two reasons: 1) I want to immediately stimulate the thinking side of that horse’s brain, and 2) I want them to be dialed in and listening to my feel so that I can control their speed and direction.

    The more mentally, emotionally and spiritually mature I become, the more that maturity carries over to my horse. The better place I am in, the better place my horse is in. My horse looks to me for confidence and security. It’s not my horse’s job to make my day good; but, it is my job to help my horse have a good day. Every day I spend with my horse is a reinforcement of the relationship we have, and I am in total control of whether that relationship is a positive or negative one.

    If you are struggling to have numerous “good days” in a row in your training, I challenge you to take a step back and be honest with yourself. Is it truly a problem with your horse, or is it a problem with your maturity toward the current situation with your horse? It took me a long time to take responsibility for my horse’s attitude, but this shift in your philosophy may just be the thing that accelerates your training program. I know that it sure made a difference in mine.

    • 28 min
    Developing Feel, Timing & Balance with Your Horse

    Developing Feel, Timing & Balance with Your Horse

    We often underestimate how much our horses rely on our feel, timing, and balance.

    I’ve touched on this topic in previous episodes, but this week, I want to dive into some of the reasons why it is so important to understand how a horse’s anatomy impacts its responses.

    In terms of vision, our horses’ eyes work a little bit differently than ours do. Horses are blessed with some skills in their vision that we don’t have, such as better nighttime vision. However, there are some key differences between human vision and equine vision that pose challenges when it comes to training.

    Horses do not see things the same way that we do. This is why it is absolutely essential for us to develop consistent feel, timing, and balance so that our horses can rely on our cues rather than their own sight.

    We, as humans, have binocular vision—meaning, both eyes work together to form images in our brains. Horses, on the other hand, primarily have monocular vision—meaning, each eye works independently of the other.

    A horse can see roughly 350-degrees around its body, but there are approximately 5 degrees directly in front of and behind a horse that are blind spots. This is because the placement of horses’ eyes are designed to support three main abilities: 1) spotting predators 2) looking for footing 3) identifying food.

    A horse’s line of vision acts somewhat like a bifocal lens. The bottom part of horses’ eyes are used primarily for identifying things that are close to them, such as their footing and food. The top part of horses’ eyes, on the other hand, are used to identify objects further away, such as movement from a person or another animal.

    When horses see the world from a different perspective than we do, they will occasionally perceive a situation to be more dangerous than it really is. This fear is driven by the blind spots in their vision. Any time an object enters the blind spots in a horse’s field of vision, there is a moment in time when the horse is unsure of where that object is. This uncertainty almost always causes a reactive response, especially in younger horses.

    So, why are some horses scared of things that other horses are not? It is because they have become comfortable with situations that other horses have not. This level of comfort comes from a strong foundation of trust.

    If you have ever tried to get a horse to cross water for the first time, you know how “scary” of a situation it can be for a horse. This is because the horse likely can’t see the water, but it can sense it in other ways by sound or smell. The only way that horse builds enough confidence to cross the water is by giving into our encouragement. But, the key is, our horse has to trust us enough to take that step.

    • 30 min
    Building Trust with an Insecure Horse

    Building Trust with an Insecure Horse

    I think we often underestimate how much our horses rely on our feel, timing, and balance.

    Horses are prey animals, meaning their anatomy is structured to allow them to see what is behind them or what is chasing them. This is why a horse, by nature, tends to have reactive responses, unless trained otherwise. With they way a horse’s eyes are positioned on its head, I’m not convinced that horses can see a barrel pattern or a steer very well. When we’re making a run, that horse relies heavily on our cues to know when to make a move. This is why it is so important to spend the time allowing your horse to understand the way you ask for a response.

    It takes hundreds—maybe, thousands—of repetitions before a horse becomes confident in your feel, timing, and balance. Although it will take time, doing 20-25 repetitions of a pressure/release system per day is one of the best things you can do for your horse’s foundation.

    Each time you release, you are starting to build trust and confidence. Although it might not seem like a big deal, those small steps are some of the best lessons that horse will learn throughout its training career. Even if you anticipate having to pick up the reins and create pressure again right after you release, you still have to create that release for your horse.

    When you always have pressure on the reins, you can somewhat control your horse’s movements, but you never allow that horse to recognize when it has performed the maneuver you are asking for. When the horse stops moving its feet and gives to the pressure of the reins, that is when you provide the release. When you release the reins, you have to make a conscious effort to relax your body as well.

    As trainers, it is our job to help our horse develop its full potential. Sometimes, this means slowing things down rather than speeding them up. It is easy to do the things that make a great horse, but it is also easy not to do the things that make a great horse. If your horse isn’t having fun and isn’t confident, there is a pretty good chance you are going to have a hard time having fun or building any confidence, either.

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
10 Ratings

10 Ratings

TylerD32 ,

Best horsemanship podcast!

So easy to listen to and to understand what he’s saying. Best podcast I’ve found so far to learn new things!

gamerrr2221 ,


I love listening to this podcast and look forward to the new episodes every week! Phil has a great way of explaining his methods and packs each episode full of helpful information!

Rodeogirl:) ,

Excited for these!

Always enjoy listening to Phil talk about horses and horsemanship. Living in Canada, I don’t have the opportunity to easily go ride with Phil so I’m looking forward to listening to these podcast episodes! I’ve enjoyed his videos in the past and I’m sure I’ll learn just as much from these.

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