California Riding Magazine • October, 2008

Book It!
Sandy Collier’s reining-oriented book features broadly-applicable basics.

Veteran trainer Sandy Collier’s new book is titled Reining Essentials: How to Excel in Western’s Hottest Sport. It is touted as an “indispensable guide of progressive exercises for training the reining horse,” but the book, like Sandy’s clinics and training DVDs, is applicable to riders in all disciplines.

Sandy has several mantles’ worth of reining and reined cow horse championship trophies, but her training techniques are rooted in broadly applicable fundamentals. “The more I wrote the book, the more I realized that,” she says. The training methods detailed in Reining Essentials are “really for all disciplines: cow horse, team penning, reining. Really, anybody that wants to enjoy their horse and get more expertise.”

Sandy hadn’t thought about writing a book until she was approached to do so by Trafalgar Square. Her schedule was plenty full already with her training barn in Santa Barbara County’s Buellton and a national and international itinerary of clinics. It turned out that writing the book wasn’t that hard, though. “I just took all the things that I’ve been verbalizing at clinics and in videos over the years and handed it to (writer) Jennifer Forsberg Meyer.”

The fact that horses learn from the release of pressure is the cornerstone in Sandy’s training foundation. In a rein back, for example, “It’s not the pulling on the rein that teaches your horse, it’s the release of that pulling when he does step back,” Sandy explains. “So few people understand that concept.”

Making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard is another basic in Sandy’s toolbox and a Reining Essentials theme. “Let’s say you are trying to get your horse to sidepass. You want to make it uncomfortable for him to stand there and do nothing. Keep bumping his side with your foot, then stop the minute he steps in the right direction. Give him that reward.”

All of Sandy’s training tips fall under the heading of “riding smarter, not harder” and are based on the idea that every second a rider spends with their horse, they are either training or untraining the horse. “Maximize every moment” is one of her mottos. “Whether you are picking up their feet or whatever, if you don’t take the opportunity to make your point then you are untraining your horse.”

Who’s Training Who?

Too often, she notes, people let horses train them. “If you have a real spooky horse and respond by forsaking trail rides, then you’ve let your horse train you.” Gradient training, the process of introducing and mastering new concepts in manageable steps, is essential in the spooky horse syndrome and in just about every other training challenge, Sandy adds. “You need to set them up for success by making sure they have the fundamentals necessary to go onto the next step.”

Specific subjects addressed in Reining Essentials include the ideal horse and equipment, how a horse thinks and learns, overcoming a horse’s natural asymmetry, top training exercises, troubleshooting tips, introducing and perfecting lead changes, sliding stops and spins and training and executing winning maneuvers and patterns.
Winning maneuvers and patterns is an area of remarkable expertise for Sandy.

Among her many awards, Sandy won the 1993 NRCHA World Championship Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Division, the 2000 NRCHA Year-End Open Hackamore Championship, the 2001 Cowhorse Classic Futurity Open Championship, and the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award by Monty Roberts. To date, she is the only female rider to win the world’s toughest cow horse event. Her analytical approach to training and her consistency in the practice and show pens are highly regarded.

New and longtime Sandy Collier fans have a great chance to experience her in action during the Women Luv Horses Retreat, Dec. 5-7 at the Los Angeles area’s City of Industry. Along with event organizer and fellow renowned horsewoman Lynn Palm, Sandy will be a featured presenter with Cynthia Cantleberry, Sharon Camarillo, Barbara Schulte and Jane Savoie. (See story here.)

For more information on Sandy Collier and Reining Essentials, visit