Speed Up Your Horse’s Training

Send the horse forward! You will find so many of your training problem will disappear when you do this one thing. That point was brought home to me so clearly while visiting a high school friend last week.

Mab is a good horseman and has broken and trained many horses through the years. She had read “Forward: Riding with Eloise King” and was excited to start her new mare, Shilo, following those principles. She tacked Shilo up for lunging and brought her into the arena and tried moving her onto a circle. The mare had not been lunged before and was looking to Mab to lead her as usual. Consequently, Shilo kept turning back to Mab trying to follow her instead of moving onto a circle around her.

lungingAt that point, I got to see how many people tend to focus on working the forehand and really aren’t used to working the horse’s hind quarters. Even though Mab had gone over the lunging instructions in Forward: Riding with Eloise King, her lunge line hand was stretched as far forward as she could reach and she was focused on the mare’s head trying to get it to go out onto the circle she wanted Shilo to make. The mare was trying to do as she was asked but, like the story of Sammy in the Forward book, Shilo was not being asked to go forward.

“Focus on her hind end,” I encouraged Mab. Then as Mab would direct her attention there and walk toward Shilo’s hind quarters, the mare would turn to get alongside Mab so she could go back to being lead. “Get behind her. Send her forward with the whip so you don’t get kicked.” So around they went in circles for a while — Mab running to get behind the mare, Shilo turning toward her to get in place to be lead. “Bend your lunge line elbow and keep it closer to your body.” Mab did so, got behind Shilo and sent her forward by clicking her tongue and lightly using the whip. Then suddenly, everything fell into place.

Shilo went into an easy, relaxed trot and continued for a few circles. Then it was stop, reward and back into the trot. No problems. You could already see that Shilo wanted to be forward and how it relaxed her as she took those beginning steps toward being forward. After getting that direction well established, we started Shilo in the other direction. This time,
Mab was quicker in getting herself where she needed to be to communicate clearly to Shilo. Shilo picked it up beautifully. Then stop, reward and a happy Shilo was sent back to her stall.

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How to Train What You Do Not Want?

A horse can be made to be compliant and accept whatever you dish out. That is the nature of the beast. He will also figure out (most times) what you want even if you give incorrect aids. But unless you give your aids correctly, the horse will have to compensate and therefore cannot be correct in the movement.

I had a boarder at my stable that used very harsh training methods. He had his horses on pasture board at my place and would take his horses to another stable that had a round pen to break them.

IMG_0678One day he took a young mare that was a favorite of ours because she would follow my husband and I around like a puppy dog. He came over a few days later and boasted about how he had broken the horse. He put a saddle and bridle on her then put her into the round pen. He told me the mare would not let him get near her so he sent her around the pen. Then he would let her stop and he would try to approach her. When she continued to not let him get near her, he would send her on around the pen. It was only after seven hours of this that she turned toward him and he was able to get on her and took her for a two hour ride. He was very proud of all the hard work he had put in to make this horse accept him and also be able to ride her after only one day of training. He said that now she would follow him around like a puppy dog. So he had taken seven hours to get to the point that she was already at!

What can I say to that but BE A STUDENT OF YOUR HORSE. Sorry to yell, but some people would do well to really look at the methods they use to train horses. And it’s not just the big things like this example but littler things like how to get a correct rein-back or flying change. If you work with your horse, it is so much easier on you and the horse.

PS. A horse has a tendency to look to the outside when traveling around a round pen. The gentleman I wrote about always used the horse turning toward him as a benchmark as to when they were ready to be submissive to him. Besides working against the horse’s nature, the round pen was also teaching the horse, during those seven hours, to bend to the outside of the circle, using and developing her outside legs on a circle. I would bet that when he wanted her to take a correct canter lead on a circle, he had created a horse that would find it difficult to do as he asked.

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