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Are You a Nelly or a Sally? Scenarios to Strengthen Your Leadership Ability

At MM Training and Consulting, we always strive to learn and grow. We also continually strive to create new ways to explain our concepts to you, our clients. In the following article, I explain some of our new terminology. Plus, I will give you some fun scenarios that will hopefully help you grasp and remember these concepts.

Before we go any further, I would like to introduce to you Nelly and Sally. Nelly and Sally are fictitious horse owners who will be performing in our scenarios. Nelly and Sally love to ride and work with their horses. But, Nelly and Sally are very, very different.

Nelly tries very hard to be a good horsewoman, but she hasn’t quite grasped how to be the leader she needs to be for her horse. She is very emotional and doesn’t adjust well. Many times, life is all about Nelly’s feelings, not about what her horse needs from her in any given moment or situation.

On the other hand, Sally is an accomplished horsewoman. She is a strong leader and knows it’s not about her – it’s about what her horse needs from her. She does what she has to do, when she has to do it, to get the response she wants from her horse – PERIOD! She gets her emotional satisfaction later when she feels the power of her self control and the progress her horse has made in his training. Sally is always offering FREE advice to her friend Nelly.​

Underground Training


Nelly: My horse is such a pig. I can get him to do anything if I have food. He comes to me when I go into his pen if I have food. But when I don’t, he is long gone. So I always try to remember to bring the grain when I want to ride. A few times when I haven’t remembered the grain, I’ve spent hours running him around trying to catch him. By then, I was so exhausted that I didn’t even want to ride!

Sally: Nelly, your horse certainly has you trained. I would like to see you learn about underground training. He obviously is not connected to you but to the food you have for him. In the round pen, you can learn how to connect a lead rope to his mind and his heart. Your horse will see you as a leader, and he will learn to come to you on command – food or not!



In the MM training program, Underground Training is the first step. It takes place in the round pen, and it comes before ground training. The goal of Underground Training is to establish who the leader is in the horse/human relationship. It builds a solid foundation of trust and respect. And, it is the place where we teach the horse to accept punishment and reward. This is all done with no halter or lead, therefore forcing the handler to only speak “horse language” to connect to the horse’s mind and heart.

Ground training, on the other hand, is a step further. It introduces our human language to our horses. It’s about teaching them manners, cues and maneuvers for future training success like forehand/haunch turns, circles, etc.

Cowboy Time


Nelly’s day dream: I am so excited; I have time in my schedule to ride tonight! I will get off work at 5:00. I will be to the barn by 5:15. I will ride until 6:30 and be home by 6:45 to cook supper for my family. I have goals all written down that I want to accomplish with my horse tonight. It will be so fun and relaxing! I can’t wait!

Nelly’s reality: Nelly’s horse didn’t read her day planner. When she got him out of the stall, he was a brat. He wouldn’t stand still when groomed. He acted like an idiot during warm-up and when she got on him, he spooked at everything, and that scared her to death! Nelly thought her horse ruined her whole evening! She called Sally on her way home to ask her what was wrong with her stupid horse.

Sally’s advice to Nelly: Nelly, Nelly, you are so organized, and I really admire that about you. But, when we are working with our horses, we have to remember to turn our attitude to “Cowboy Time.” It’s not about us and our time schedule; it’s about what the horse needs from us. Your horse needed you to adjust your routine. Maybe you needed to warm him up before you groomed him. Then, if you offered to let him stand during grooming, and he didn’t, warm-up was your goal for that day. Because if your horse can’t mind his manners from the ground, we should never get in the saddle!



Have you ever noticed that your horse doesn’t wear a watch or pack a day planner? The term “Cowboy Time” comes from what real cowboys know for sure. Cowboys know that when they are working with horses, it’s not about them and their time schedule or calendar, but about the horse’s time schedule.

Caught Ya! Principle and Reward Ritual​


Nelly thinking to herself: I am so mad at my horse. She is being sooooo stupid. I know she is not scared of that wet spot in the arena, but she keeps shying and won’t get over it. I have worked her for the past half hour, and she won’t quit being stupid! “Sally, will you please watch my horse and tell me what HER problem is?”

Sally: After watching Nelly and her horse for a moment, Sally realized that when Nelly stopped her horse, and her horse would stand quietly next to the wet spot, Nelly would not reward her horse. Sally mentioned to Nelly that she might want to use the Reward Ritual because her horse was beginning to cooperate.

Nelly: “I don’t want to reward her yet! I’m still mad at her!!!!”

Sally proceeded to explain: “It’s not about you Nelly, it’s about what your horse needs from you.” You don’t have to feel like giving a reward, you just have to do it. It’s the leadership your horse needs to create the behavior that you want.​



Caught Ya! Principle: Keep your focus on finding things your horse does right, not on what he does wrong. Remember, don’t wait to just reward the end goal; we need to reward the “try” and the extra effort.

Reward Ritual: We found that our students were not experiencing the depth of connection with their horses that we knew was possible. So, we coined the term “Reward Ritual.” It was our hope that by using the reward ritual, our clients would experience connection at a deeper level. Reward Ritual is a reward that we give our horses, and it has very specific steps. These steps look exactly the same every time. Because the reward looks the same every time, the horse begins to recognize the reward sooner. The important thing for the handler is to recognize when the horse needs a reward (Caught Ya! principle) and to continue giving the reward until the horse recognizes it.​

Get In and Get Out


Nelly: I’ve been told that my horse is such an emotional liar (gray inside color). Sometimes when he is being emotional, I want to pet him to settle him down because he is scaring me. But Sally tells me to get after him! It really seems to be the opposite of what I feel like I should do.

Sally: Remember Nelly, it’s not about you and your feelings. You want to pet your horse because you are scared. I recommend you get into your horse because he is lying to you. He is not scared! But when you get into your horse, you have to get in with enough intensity and stay in long enough for your discipline to raise a healthy fear level in your horse. You have to see that healthy fear in his body language before you quit. If you don’t, you are just being an irritating nag to your horse. And you are not being the leader you need to be to create the behavior that you want!



This term, get in and get out, was developed to describe the discipline process we use on our horses. Our horses need to have a healthy fear level, and sometimes they need to be reminded who the leader is in the horse/human relationship. This process has five points for us to consider when we are disciplining.

  1. When to get in to our horse?
  2. How to get in?
  3. How intensely to get in?
  4. How long to stay in?
  5. When to get out?​​

I hope that you enjoyed Nelly and Sally and they have helped you understand some of our new terminology and concepts. If you have a Nelly and Sally scenario, please e-mail us. We would love to hear from you. You can look forward to hearing more from fictitious cowgirls in our 2006 clinics!

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