Whispering Hope Stables Blog

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Whispering Hope Stables – The Growth

July 22nd, 2014
The Transformation of Whispering Hope Stables

Whispering Hope Stables was purchased by the Peters Family in September 2012. Since the purchase on September 12th, 2012 through early May of 2014, the farm has been transformed into the vision of its owners, Steve & Amy. It is with humble hearts that we share with you, through this video, many of the big projects we tackled since purchasing this beautiful farm. We want to “thank” everyone who has helped us, supported us, and especially to those family and friends of ours that have been so patient with us and our work over these last 18 months. Enjoy the video and we look forward to continuing to share this farm with our WHS Family, friends and family for many more years.

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Raleigh’s Horse Boarding Facility Upgrades It’s State of the Art Equestrian Arena

June 25th, 2014
Whispering Hope Stables, Raleigh’s top horse boarding facility, has superb arena footing for equestrian training.

One rainy spring morning in May 2014, an 18-wheeler truck full of rubber pieces arrived at Whispering Hope Stables. The rubber footing for the arena, now named “Laurie’s Dream” after our sweet friend Laurie Hutchinson, had finally arrived. Amy Peters, Owner of Whispering Hope Stables, promptly climbed up onto the delivered fork lift in the pouring rain and received an immediate “on-the-job” training course on how to operate a fork lift.

This year, Whispering Hope Stables made the decision to enhance their sports arena surface with the addition of rubber footing into their sand/screenings riding surface. Rubber is one of the newest elements to be integrated into arena footing and is quickly growing in popularity. Rubber footing was first introduced into horse arenas by Robert Malmgren, a soil scientist at Colorado State University Equine Center.  Robert Malmgren conducted many studies and his discoveries led to the beginning of rubber footing being regularly used in horse riding arenas.

Rubber is a wonderful addition in an equestrian riding arena as it significantly improves resiliency. According to Oxford dictionary, resilience is defined as “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape.” This resilience is extremely significant as it can directly influence the loading and unloading phase of a horse’s movement. In an interview, expert Hilary M. Clayton (BVMS, PhD, MRVCS, Holder of the Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair) explained that, when a surface is too forgiving, like deep dry sand or wood shavings, the surface can be compared to “running on a track covered in pillows.”, Continuing on, she said, “this type of low-impact surface absorbs so much energy that your horse’s muscles work much harder to provide sufficient propulsion.” Over time, this extra “work” can lead to premature onset of fatigue and increased risk of sprains.

Rubber can also significantly decrease the amount of dust caused in outdoor arenas. Rubber is able to maintain its structural integrity under severe weather conditions or irritations such as, rain, snow, ice, and machinery like tractors or horse’s hooves. Since rubber does not break down easily, there is less dust formed than compared to sand, soil, screenings or wood chips.  Therefore, by adding rubber, you can protect and prolong the sand or screenings base from breaking down and, in return, reduce the dust flying around the arena. Less dust can not only create a better riding experience, but more importantly reduce the chance of developing certain health conditions in the rider and horse.

Dust can contribute to the worsening of allergies and asthma for the rider or horse. Horses that have the “heaves” also known as COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease can have difficulty breathing and should ride in an arena with minimal dust.  It is suspected that chronic exposure to dust in all aspects of the horse’s environment can eventually result in COPD.   Therefore, adding the rubber to equestrian training footings can help reduce the dust intake by horses.  This simple step can, in turn, help prevent the development of COPD symptoms.

Rubber footing is a preferred material under most weather circumstances.  Heavy rain and flooding can cause the rubber to move easily to the perimeter or outside of the arena.  This problem, however, can be easily resolved with proper equipment and regular arena maintenance.  Overall, rubber footing works well in all weather conditions and seasons.  For example, the rubber footing can assist with the thawing of ice and snow, as well as, taking off the glare of a mid-day summer sun.

Every resource about arena surfaces will tell you that the key to obtaining and keeping an ideal surface for riding is regular maintenance. Whispering Hope Stables provides excellent arena maintenance throughout the year, with daily raking and watering times.

An article released by Pennsylvania State, College of Agricultural Sciences, described a perfect arena surface as, “cushioned to minimize concussion on horse legs, firm enough to provide traction, not too slick, not too dusty, not overly abrasive to horse hooves, resistant to freezing during cold weather, inexpensive to obtain, and easy to maintain.” Our good mixture of sand, screening, and rubber at Whispering Hope Stables provides an ideal surface arena for all our equestrian athletes and their horses.

If you haven’t already, you should make an effort this week to come out and ride on our new arena surface at Whispering Hope Stables. You can immediately tell the difference in resiliency, just by stepping onto the arena. There’s this kind of bounce in your step!

Whispering Hope Stables is a top horse boarding and training facility in Raleigh/Cary/Apex triangle area that is dedicated to providing the best training and education to both our equestrian athletes and their riders. Whispering Hope has a large and well-lit outdoor sports arena with ideal footing for our equestrian athletes. Our arena footing at Whispering Hope Stables provides a safe and quaint place for our dressage, jumping, or general horseback riders.

Check out photos and comment about our new footing on our Facebook page “Whispering Hope Stables” or follow us on Twitter @WHS5237.

Written by: Madeline Gioja, Whispering Hope Stables

Date: 06/25/2014



Anderson, F. (n.d.). Arena Construction, Maintenance, and Crumb Rubber. Premier Equestrian. Retrieved June 18, 2014, from http://www.dressagearena.net/images/web%20footing%20booklet.pdf

Ball, M. (1999, November 1). COPD. TheHorse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care. Retrieved June 18, 2014, from http://www.thehorse.com/articles/10360/copd

Malmgren, R. C. (1999). The equine arena handbook: developing a user-friendly facility. Loveland, CO: Alpine Publications.

Sellnow, L. (2000, May 1). Footing and Horse Performance. TheHorse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care. Retrieved June 18, 2014, from http://www.thehorse.com/articles/10178/footing-and-horse-performance

Wheeler, E. F., & Zajaczkowski, J. (2006). Riding Arena Footing Material Selection and Management. Pennsylvania State University.

Comments Off on Top Horse Boarding Facility’s Lessons Learned – Part 6: Dressage and Connection

Top Horse Boarding Facility’s Lessons Learned – Part 6: Dressage and Connection

January 29th, 2014

Top Horse Boarding Facility’s Lessons Learned – Part 6:  Dressage and Connection

At Whispering Hope Stables the Owners and I, as Head Trainer, not only provide the best horse riding facility in the Raleigh/Cary/Apex area; but on educating and training our equestrian athletes and their riders. Here my focus is on dressage basics as the necessary groundwork for other disciplines including hunters, jumpers, cross-country, and pleasure riding.

Collection is the ultimate goal of Dressage training, and therefore is the pinnacle of the training pyramid, where each building block must come into play. First based on rhythm, then relaxation, connection, impulsion, and straightness, all of these come together over much time and practice to create collection. This is then demonstrated by a lightness of the forehand and shorter, more elevated steps.

The first misconception many people have about collection is that Step One is collecting the reins. Collection is NOT a shortened frame created by constraint of the front end held in tight reins. Besides creating all kinds of tension and discomfort, this puts the horse on the forehand, they will either hollow their backs and pull upward, or curl downward and get heavier and heavier.

Incorrect collection results in the lateral walk, a loss of rhythm demonstrated by the walk changing from a normal four-beat gait into a two beat; that is both left legs, then both right legs type gait.  This walk is rarely seen when the reins are released; except in cases where the horse is so used to being constrained that he carries that tension in anticipation of the reins being pulled. In the trot irregularities often appear in the lateral work, where collection is supposed to begin. Pulling the reins to force a sideways motion instead of asking the horse to step over into a steady connection causes rein-lameness, magically cured by releasing the rein and activating the hind leg.

If your horse is sound with the exception of his lateral work, revisit your use of the reins. In the canter, constriction of the reins results in a flat, four-beat gait. The judge’s comment will often be, “lacks jump in canter.” In other words- activate, lift, and release to lighten the forehand and don’t just crunch the horse together so his movement is diminished. It’s not that the reins aren’t an active part of communicating with the horse in lateral work or collection, it’s that they must be touched and quickly released in a small imperceptible way so that the touch of the reins is a directive, not a drag. Keep in mind that the bit is on the horse’s gums- how hard would someone need to touch your gums to get their point across? No harder than fingers on a keyboard, if you have taught your horse to understand what you are asking.

A release doesn’t have to mean letting your reins droop either, it can be as subtle as moving your ring finger forward to relieve rein pressure.

Collection also has nothing to do with lessening the energy level or slowing. It is true that less ground will be covered as the steps get more elevated, but there should be just as much energy in the collected trot as there is in the extended trot. True collection actually elevates the front end by articulating and lowering the haunches in response to half-halts from the seat. These half-halts activate the energy of the hind leg, but ask for the impulsion to go upward rather than forward. The hand momentarily closes in the half halt to shift the forward energy upward, but it immediately releases to allow freedom and relaxation of the muscles.

It is true that without a disciplined rider position this would be nearly impossible, but the components of such a position warrant another article entirely.  I will just state here that for an effective seat, we must be sure our own hips are articulated forward and under to allow the thighs to come away from the saddle. A rider with a hollow back will grip with the thighs and cause the horse will hollow its back in response, which will more than likely resort to pulling on the reins. Effective hands must be trained on a buckstrap to act separately and yet remain still apart from the motion of the body, and not get tricked into needing to “fix” the horse’s position by pulling this way and that. Yes I know it’s so tempting sometimes, but don’t fall for it! For the horse to stay in balance, the hands must stay put. Adjust the reins, not the hands.

Collection is where the entire training pyramid must come into play. A loss of rhythm indicates constriction, or loss of relaxation.  Any loss of connection would fail to support the horse and help him shift his balance onto the hind end, or fail to maintain impulsion. Any loss of straightness would be a result of tension, loss of connection, but ultimately would result in losing the maximum power for lift.

It is up for debate how much the role of the front legs add to collation by braking, or pushing upward. There is no doubt that most of what you see in passage and piaffe involve the strength of the shoulders for stopping the forward movement, but this is not in keeping with the theory of classical dressage.  Here the lowering of the croup, strengthening of the quarters and flexion of the joints allows the hind end to take more weight, lifting and freeing the shoulders.

I hope these examples have given you some ideas of how you can improve your connection with your horse today. Release the reins, and just enjoy!

Written by:  Laurie Hutchinson

Head Trainer

Whispering Hope Stables

Laurie Hutchinson is the Director of Training at Whispering Hope Stables, Raleigh’s Premier Equestrian Facility. In 2014, she is competing Whispering Hope Sporthorse’s Hugo Boss in the USEF Young Horse Dressage Program for 6 year olds and her own Veva Rose in the Grand Prix and the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix for 8-10 year old horses. She can be reached at (919) 851-6237 for lessons, training and clinics.


Top Horse Boarding Facility’s Lessons Learned – Part 5: Dressage and Straightness

November 25th, 2013

Top Horse Boarding Facility’s Lessons Learned – Part 5:  Dressage and Straightness

At Whispering Hope Stables the owners and I as Head Trainer pride ourselves on not only providing the best horse boarding facility in the Raleigh/Cary/Apex areas, but on educating and training our equestrian athletes and their riders. My focus is on dressage basics as the necessary groundwork for other disciplines including hunters, jumpers, cross-country, and pleasure riding.

The good news is it’s not just your horse; they are all born crooked!

Just as you’ve watched a gleeful dog burst into a full gallop only to wonder if his hind end is going to pass his front as it veers off to the right, your horse more than likely tends to bend one way more than the other. The job of the skilled rider is to identify the crookedness, strengthen his weaker side with targeted exercises, and teach the horse how to carry himself/herself in correct alignment. So in order to get to this point, again, we refer to our training pyramid. We are making the assumption that the horse & rider are able to maintain a regular rhythm, are relaxed & without tension or bracing, and that the horse is pushing forward into a steady connection. So why, when going down the long side or heading down the line to a jump, are the hips traveling to the right?

The answer lies in the biomechanics of the horse. Just as we have a dominant hand, they have a dominant side. The dominant hind leg carries more of the weight of the horse by moving under the center of gravity while the weaker side slides out to the side, where it doesn’t have to support so much. Typically a horse will be right-sided, meaning his front right leg carries most of his weight. The reverse is true for the hind legs; where the front right is stronger, the hind left will be. There are theories about whether this is caused by how the fascia as the horse develops in the womb as there are some horses that are left-sided. A number of factors can affect this, such as breeding or trauma to a certain limb or muscle group. Regardless of the root case; it perpetuates itself as the stronger side carries more and becomes even stronger, and as the weaker side continually gets itself out of work.

So…How can you begin to identify crookedness? Do you find yourself thinking that your horse is always pulling on the right rein while the left one is hanging loose?  Does he/she fall in on circles going one way then fall out the other? Is one of your shoulders always sore? Is your horse perfectly happy going around with his nose one way, but if you try to bend the other, he/she gets upset and starts tossing their head to avoid bending? More obviously, if you look over your shoulder, are your horse’s haunches directly behind his/her shoulders or off to one side?

Lateral exercises encourage the horse to step underneath the center of the body, thereby forcing the inside hind leg to carry more weight. The shoulder-in is the building block of all upper-level work for this very reason. On a right-sided horse, I may do most of my work going to the right, asking for a bit of a leg yield to the left (away from the right leg) or a shoulder-in right.

A horse that is stronger on his/her right front tends to lean on his/her right shoulder, habitually falling to the right or pulling on the right rein. To balance this, your horse needs to strengthen both the right hind (horses stronger on the right shoulder are stronger on the left hind) and the left shoulder. We take weight off the right shoulder by placing the right hind under the center of gravity and asking the horse to move away from our right leg, toward the left front. When properly performed; the horse should be pushing into a steady left rein, and the right rein should only be used to correct the bend when needed.

One mistake often made is to pull the right rein until the horse falls left.  Instead, release the rein except for momentary corrections to the bend and be sure the horse is stepping away from your leg.

Haunches, in and half-pass, are excellent for improving balance and flexibility as they require that the horse travel in the direction to which he/she is bent.  Once again, be sure the rein on the side to which your horse is bent is only used for momentary corrections. Pulling or holding the horse up creates tension in the horse and in the rider, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

All of these exercises should be perfected at the walk before moving on to other endeavors.  As with any exercise involving muscle memory, your horse needs a lot of practice before having the movement ingrained in their brain enough to know where to put his feet to keep their balance as you move on to trot and canter. Once the horse can easily move his/her body around in a relaxed way from the slightest touch of the leg, then not only should the horse be strong enough to use either hind leg handily, but the rider should feel when the horse’s hips are slightly out of alignment. Afterwards, a correction can be made quickly and subtlety.

So, to become straight, the pair must first master bending. In order to move on to the final building block in the training pyramid (collection) the pair must be able to have the strength, balance and flexibility to move from shoulder-in to renver, to travers, to half-pass one direction, then the other. By this point, the rider must be skilled in making little adjustments to the angle and bend as well. The more skill the rider develops in adjusting, the more easily the rider can maintain straightness. When straight, the horse’s hind legs are evenly loaded and ready for the final step in the training pyramid: Collection.

Written by:  Laurie Hutchinson

Head Trainer

Whispering Hope Stables


Laurie Hutchinson is the Director of Training at Whispering Hope Stables, Raleigh’s Premier Equestrian Facility. In 2013, she is competing Whispering Hope Sporthorse’s Hugo Boss in the USEF Young Horse Dressage Program for 6 year olds and her own Veva Rose in the Grand Prix and the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix for 8-10 year old horses. She can be reached at (919) 851-6237 for lessons, training and clinics.




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Raleigh’s Top Dressage Trainer

November 4th, 2013

NCDCTA published an article in their November 2013 online edition on Raleigh’s Top Dressage Trainer, Laurie Hutchinson.  This article is on Laurie winning Gold Medal Status on Saturday, October 5th in Williamston.  Congrats again to Laurie Hutchinson.  You can see the article at http://www.ncdcta.org/newsletters13.html on page 3.

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A Post on Raleigh’s Top Horse Training Facility

October 17th, 2013

Check out this wonderful blog by Anne Cain. Anne is a real estate agent based in Central North Carolina. Her blog is a great way of learning more about farms available for sale. Thank you Anne for the kind words about WHS!!


Comments Off on Top Horse Boarding Facility’s Lessons Learned – Part 4: Dressage and Connection

Top Horse Boarding Facility’s Lessons Learned – Part 4: Dressage and Connection

October 10th, 2013

As the Head Trainer at Whispering Hope Stables I, along with the Owners, pride myself on not only providing the best horse boarding facility in the Raleigh/Cary/ Apex, but on emphasizing both educating & training our equestrian athletes along with their riders. At WHS my focus is on core dressage techniques which create the necessary groundwork for other disciplines including hunters, jumpers, cross-country, and pleasure riding.

If you have followed this series on demystifying dressage while we work our way through the training pyramid; you will have hopefully gained some insight into the first two building blocks of the pyramid. Although all parts of the pyramid work together, the dual foundation principles are Rhythm and Losgelassenheit, translated essentially as “relaxation with elasticity and suppleness.”

If you have been practicing some of the steps I have described, you should be well on your way to recognizing a clear and correct rhythm in each gait and controlling the horse’s tempo without pulling on the reins. As a result, the reins can now be used to flex and bend and help to create relaxation and suppleness laterally and longitudinally (over the top line, flexing the poll, jaw, and stretching the back.)

So now, welcome to the most elusive part of the pyramid – Connection. It is no accident that this section is sandwiched right in the middle with impulsion, above rhythm & relaxation, and below straightness & collection. There can’t be a steady connection without having the following:  some knowledge what the correct rhythm for each gait feels like, a feel for a steady tempo, and the ability to create the relaxation necessary for acceptance of the bit and proper function of the musculature of the horse.

In a good connection the horse completely accepts the aids and willingly moves forward, pushing over his top line into the bridle.  What it looks like is this: the legs which rest in a constant but very light contact against his sides, thus creating more energy with a quick and indiscernible squeeze to ask him to push more. The seat either allows the forward or half halt shifts that energy back, asking the horse to load the hindquarters and lift the shoulder so that energy presents itself as an upward movement rather than a quicker tempo. The reins are stretched snug, neither pulled tight to restrict movement, nor hanging looped. Hanging reins are often confused with lightness, causing some riders to feel the horse is in a frame when in reality the horse has dropped the connection to protect himself from wayward rein aids. Any time the reins are hanging the connection is lost and the horse is not only behind the bit, but behind the leg as well. This usually presents itself as a ball of tension in the short poll muscle located a few inches behind the ears. To correct this, ask your horse to push more from behind which causes him to reach toward the bit, then gently flex a little left or right to unlock those muscles and release your horse to stretch down. When the horse is energetically moving off of a light touch from the leg, and he/she has relaxed his/her neck muscles such that the head is lightly resting onto the bit, you should have a good connection. The horse is eagerly awaiting your next cue, which from this position can be as sensitive as a closing of the ring finger on the rein, He/she will then feel that pressure and flex in the direction you are asking. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Now, keep him that way for 45 minutes through all the gaits and movements and you have mastered dressage.

Regrettably, that’s not quite how it goes in real life. Connection is something we are constantly tweaking and improving. In a split second your horse is leaning on the right rein, dead to the right leg, or you have nothing in the left rein.  And God forbid if someone walks by with an umbrella and all is lost.

When they are learning, you may only get that perfect feel for a stride or two at a time; which is okay. The goal is to improve the focus incrementally each day. What makes a great competitor isn’t necessarily the fanciest gait on the planet, as much as his ability to focus on his rider, maintaining that connection.  This in turn ensures that little adjustments and transitions are constantly being made unbeknownst to the observer.

To maintain that focus, the horse must relax into the rider’s hand, trusting that he/she is not going to be unexpectedly yanked. Your horse is vulnerable by relaxing their sensitive gums against a piece of metal connected to the rider’s hand through the rein and we must honor that by diligently working to keep the hand still and quiet. Whisper with the fingers on the reins- don’t yell. The same logic applies to using the leg aids. If the rider has not mastered her own balance and her right leg is constantly banging on his side, it isn’t fair punish him for ignoring it. If the horse is ignoring an aid then go back to the basics showing him, even from the ground if necessary, the reaction that gets the reward. We’ve all seen the riders yelling “You aren’t listening!!” at a horse, when we can clearly see the horse has no idea what the correct response could be.

Training is a language that must be learned by both the rider and horse in baby steps. Give an aid and reward the correct response. Your horse may lean into the leg the first few times instead of moving away from it, which is normal. Keep at it and when he moves away, make a fuss over him. Make it crystal clear. Subtleness comes with practice and lots of it.

Connection isn’t just about having perfectly still legs and hands and a perfectly obedient horse. To create connection, you must put your horse first, understand your own fallibility, and be as forgiving of your horse as they have been of you. If the rider is listening, the horse will too.

Written by:  Laurie Hutchinson

Head Trainer

Whispering Hope Stables

Laurie Hutchinson is the Director of Training at Whispering Hope Stables, Raleigh’s Premier Equestrian Facility. In 2013, she is competing Whispering Hope Sporthorse’s Hugo Boss in the USEF Young Horse Dressage Program for 6 year olds and her own Veva Rose in the Grand Prix and the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix for 8-10 year old horses. She can be reached at (919) 851-6237 for lessons, training and clinics.

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Top Horse Boarding Facility’s Lessons Learned – Part 3: Dressage and Impulsion

September 10th, 2013

As the Head Trainer at Whispering Hope Stables, I pride myself not only on providing the best horse boarding facility in the Raleigh/Cary/Apex area, but on educating and training our equestrian athletes and their riders. At WHS, our focus is dressage basics as the necessary groundwork for various disciplines including hunters, jumpers, cross-country, and pleasure riding.

As we continue to advance up the building blocks of the training scale, Impulsion marks the more advanced second half of the pyramid. Built on a solid foundation of rhythm, relaxation, and a good connection with the rider; Impulsion is the necessary energy that propels the horse forward in the moment of suspension during the trot and canter. It relates to thrust, not speed. Anyone who has done a dressage test has no doubt encountered at least one “lacks impulsion” comment. At some point, we have all sped from M to K with short, fast strides that do not accomplish any loft whatsoever.

The German word for what those judges are looking for is “Schwung” which is defined as the “transmission of energetic impulse created by the hind legs into the forward movement of the entire horse.” The reason this differs from flat out speed is that it requires the hind leg to reach underneath the horse, pushing up and over a relaxed and elastic top-line, thus creating a swinging back.

There is no Impulsion at the walk simply because there is no moment of suspension. In the instance of the walk the judges are looking for activity, not Impulsion.

To create Impulsion the horse must not only willingly go forward with a relaxed top-line but we must be able to begin to shift the weight of the horse; which is naturally carried about 60% by the forehand to the hindquarters. This is accomplished through the rider by having established an elastic connection with the horse from the leg/seat/rein aids – (see the last article on connection).  The horse in essence prepares for a halt by closing the leg/seat/rein aids instantaneously, which encourages the horse forward before the halt occurs.

If the rider has established a good connection with the horse and can control the rhythm and relaxation, transitions such as canter/walk or trot/halt should be performed easily. Once those are established, transitions within the gaits become bigger or smaller without changing the tempo and are the next step. Energy is augmented via the leg aide, then tempo is restricted by tightening the rider’s core (stomach muscles) which deepens the seat, while closing the hand at the same time. This should only be done for an instant to create a good half-halt; as more would result in a full halt. If your half-halt is ineffective, then perform several full halts from all the gaits.

Once the horse is prepared to respond with a full halt, simply encourage him forward in the instant his/her weight shifts back to halt. That instant of preparing the horse is analogous to a downshift of a car and should round his lower back; putting his hind legs further under him and tucking in his abdominal muscles, which in turn allows the lifting of the forehand. This increased moment of suspension is how we increase the core strength of the horse, as well as the carrying power of the hind legs, which results in ever-increasing moment of suspension. Combine these moments together and voila–Impulsion!

All of the lateral work, particularly the shoulder-in and haunches-in, will build carrying power. Each of these movements places a hind leg beneath the center of gravity of the horse, as the forward movement is shifted back by the outside rein aid. The energy is then allowed only in the direction the hind leg is traveling, and the shoulders are lifted so the front legs can cross. The correct performance of these particular movements are imperative to the advancement of the training and core-strength building of the horse which is why so few horses and riders get successfully through second level.

Once again, this is just one part of the six-piece training scale. This type of strength building takes time and must be supported by the good basics. The lateral work that goes into building the strength for true Impulsion should make the horse increasingly flexible and should make him/her very sensitive to the leg aids, preparing the horse for the final step necessary before collection: Straightness.  Details on this next month!

Written by:  Laurie Hutchinson

Head Trainer

Whispering Hope Stables

Laurie Hutchinson is the Director of Training at Whispering Hope Stables, Raleigh’s Premier Equestrian Facility. In 2013 she will be competing Whispering Hope Sporthorse’s Hugo Boss in the USEF Young Horse Dressage Program for 6 year olds, and her own Veva Rose in the Grand Prix and the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix for 8-10 year old horses. She can be reached at (919) 851-6237 for lessons, training and clinics.



Whispering Hope Stables – Scott Hofstetter Clinic

August 15th, 2013

FINAL-whs2013-COLOR-WH-5Please join us at Whispering Hope Stables for a Scott Hofstetter Clinic on October 12th and October 13th.

Scott began his rise to fame in 1986, when as a junior rider he won the ASPCA Maclay Equitation Finals at Madison Square Garden. Since then, he has gone on to win Leading Hunter Rider Awards at Devon, the Capital Challenge, the Washington International, and the National Horseshow. He now is a popular judge officiating at all of these events, as well as, a sought-after clinician.

This clinic is $250 for two days. There will be two hour sessions each day split according to fence height. Call our office at (919) 851-6237 to reserve your spot.  There are a limited amount of spots available and spectators are welcome, but you must RSVP to get a pass.  We hope to see you there!


Raleigh’s Top Horse Boarding Facility Made the News in the Southeast Equine Monthly

August 5th, 2013

Raleigh’s Top Horse Boarding Facility and Laurie Hutchinson made the news in the August 2013 edition of the Southeast Equine Monthly Magazine.  Here is the link and a copy of the article.

The Link:  www.equinemonthly.com

Never Too Late

 by Laurie Hutchinson

Many of us started this obsession with horses as little girls with a dream.  Once bitten by the horse bug, this dream takes many different forms: For some it was to have a pony of their own.  For others, it may have been the dream to be an Olympian, or an equine vet. For many, it was simply to be able to spend time in the magical land where one special horse knew all our secrets and made us feel safe in their strength and our connection to nature. Whether these dreams were indulged to any degree, for the vast majority of us reality set in at some point, and careers and family life forced us to shelve our love of horses for a time. Many years later, with time constraints and perhaps financial burdens eased, many women find themselves longing to fulfill those childhood dreams once again. But, is it too late?

Absolutely not. True, bones have hardened with time and we are more aware of our fragility than we once were. Perhaps some injury along the road of life has made us a little more nervous around these half-ton creatures than we were when we were much smaller.  But with safety at the forefront, and armed with a logical system of how to effectively communicate with the horse, many women are once again feeling the wind blow through their hair, albeit this time, it’s through the vents of a high-tech helmet.

A Supportive Community

Whispering Hope Stables, a premier boarding and training facility in Raleigh, NC, has responded to this need by creating the  “Never Too Late Club”.  In an often competitive equine environment, a nurturing, supportive network has been developed in which women can get comfortable around horses again, without fear of being judged by more experienced equestrians. Groups of women, ranging from those who have once upon a time spent many hours in the saddle, to those who just want to dip a toe into their childhood dream, gather once a week, each assigned a dependable mount for the occasion. After an hour of riding, the women commune in the lounge for appetizers and drinks, and to talk about the experience, which quickly evolves into discussions of the joy and magic that horses have brought into their lives, and the experiences that brought them back in touch with their dream.

“My daughter, Sara, is obsessed with horses. I have a deep love of animals, and want to be able to share this experience with her,” says Amy Peters, owner of Whispering Hope Stables and founder of the Never Too Late Club. “I noticed a theme in many of the people calling for lessons, in that they were concerned about their time away from horses, and I wanted to create a community to let women explore a return to riding without feeling like they needed to be an expert to join us.”

One of the concerns many women have is how fit they need to be to ride. Riding depends mainly on having enough core strength to stay balanced initially, and cardiovascular fitness helps, but for any rider returning to the saddle, finding a reliable horse to begin the journey is the most important step.  A bad experience cannot only take all the joy out of the years our potential rider has spent dreaming of this moment, it can also quickly get dangerous. Having such a large animal out of control is not only scary, but can easily result in a serious injury.

Establishing Trust

Before mounting, it is important to understand the evolutionary consequences of the horse being an animal of prey. Armed with hooves and teeth designed for grazing, horses are ill-equipped to defend themselves against predators, and relay mainly on signals from their herd, their wide-set eyes, swiveled ears, and sense of smell, to determine whether to flee from danger.  Removed from their herd, the horse depends largely on the human for confidence, and body language is key in establishing trust and respect.

Direct eye contact can either be perceived as a threat, or an order from a senior herd member to move out of the way. To stay out of trouble, it is important to recognize when a horse is distressed being overly assertive. Ignoring the signs of nostrils flaring, pinned ears, and a madly swishing tail could lead to further aggression such as a bite, kick, or buck.  A key element of safety on the ground is that the handler maintains an area of personal space that a horse should respect and stay out of.  If this is not established, a horse can quickly step into that space and onto or over the handler if a threat is perceived.  Attention to the personal space of the handler needs to be the number one priority of a safe horse.

Back in the Saddle

When mounted, rider safety translates into being able to stop and dismount at any point.  Each new gait or movement needs to incorporate another “testing of the brakes,” so that the rider’s confidence never waivers. Without confidence, there can be no relaxation, and therefore no fun!

It can be very intimidating to get up on the back of a horse after years on the ground.  It is very important to realize that some fear and self-preservation is normal, and that the skill of learning to handle a horse needs to be tackled with patience, by slowly building a new history of positive experiences that allow the rider to build confidence. A kind and patient professional is key to arming the rider with the tools needed to respond to new tasks and new fears as they arise.

Once the swinging of the horse’s back as he walks starts to feel like a normal mode of transportation, the possibilities are limited only by the ambitions of the rider and abilities of the horse.  Many a professional began riding as an adult, and Princess Anne rode in the Olympics at age 70!

Whether your dream is to assist with therapy horses, stroll through the woods with friends, or someday head into the competitive arena, it is Never Too Late to bring the joy of horses back into your life.