Get Your Horse Involved in the Training Process

IMG_3933 I will be conducting a clinic at Diamond TR (west of Little Rock) on Saturday, February 14 (yep Valentines Day, so bring your Sweetheart- human or equine) entitled Getting Your Horse involved in the Training Process. Too many times I see horses with issues with cues because the signals are confusing or not held long enough for the horse to figure out what the purpose is. Clinic will start at 9:00 a.m. and end between 3 and 4:00 p.m. To register contact Diamond TR Ranch at diamondtr.com.

You can’t teach a colt or an older horse to be a reining horse in 30 days. In the preliminary stage of laying out a solid foundation, I want to teach him to learn. When I ask him to do a maneuver, I want him to look for a way to accomplish it instead of resisting me. The only way to do this is to be consistent with your cues and don’t try to force the issue. In other words, be patient and don’t try to physically overpower the horse. If you get into a tugging contest, the horse will win because he’s bigger and stronger. He will learn to resist. Only apply enough pressure to get a correct response. If you start out with the most amount of pressure applied to get a response, where do you go from there? The horse must have a release. The key to horse training is pressure and release. Apply the pressure and release it as soon as you get a desired response. This keeps horses from becoming intimidated and resistant, because they believe if they do the right thing the pressure will be released. I believe that if you take a little more time with a horse he will learn faster.

Here is how we include the horse in the training process:
1. Listen to him. The horse will tell you what he’s thinking. He can communicate confusion, fear, understanding, excitement, or level of effort through his body language.
2. Build a basis for communication. Ray Hunt always said, “Reward the smallest change and the slightest try.”
3. Always be consistent in your cues. Start from the ground and then progress to the saddle with lateral and vertical flexion, control of the feet, and control the movement of the body. This will build a supple, willing horse, and give consistency to communication.
4. Expect and accept failure. Each cue is not going to be understood and executed. Therefore, failure becomes a “teachable moment” in which we can re-evaluate our communication. It is also an opportunity to back up and make sure the fundamental training steps have been learned.
5. Build a foundation for success. Everything we ask a horse to do, he already knows how to do. We are just asking him to do them exactly when we want him to do it. All a horse can do is move forward, backward, sideways, left, right and stop. Everything we ask is a combination of these maneuvers or change in speed. Start slow and build momentum. Allow the horse to buy into our system.

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