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If you’re new to riding and horses, the concept of actually training a horse could seem rather intimidating. Horses are large, have minds of their own, and can occasionally seem very unpredictable. However, if you’re inclined to spend some opportunity to find out about how horses think and act, you can train your horse through many issues in a manner that’s safe for you and the horse. The one warning that I will give here is that there are a number of behavioral problems that take expertise and ability to work through, but the only way to get that experience is to start slow, begin working through things and constantly know about your horse and what he’s telling you.

Begin by Watching

If you’re new to horse training, step one is to begin watching horses in the area and as others are working together. Learning how to recognize and interpret the horse’s body language is your number one part of becoming successful at training and, more importantly, keeping yourself safe. You will need to know when the horse isn’t paying attention and requires a wake-up, or when the horse has been pushed to hard and is beginning to become defensive by preparing to bite or kick. I can not say it enough? Studying the horse is the trick to training and the secret to not getting hurt in the process of instruction. You can’t learn to read a horse by looking at pictures or reading books, you must go out and observe real horses and take note of what they’re doing and feeling. You have to get in the mind of the horse. This is a skill that requires a lifetime to master, but start now and you could be amazed how quickly you will start picking things up.

Fundamentals of Training

Or you could train with negative reinforcement, so the horse is working to prevent something. That is where having a connection and a connection with the horse you’re training will make the training easier and more successful. A connection may mean simply that the horse trusts you as you act consistently and the horse could see you as a companion, not someone to be feared.

Horses learn how to react to cues, like dogs and even people. The cue itself actually doesn’t matter, so long as it’s consistent. So you put on the cue, the horse starts to move to get the ideal answer to eliminate the pressure. When he finds the ideal answer, we release the pressure and give him a reward, which is compliments and patting or a food reward if appropriate. By way of instance, we stage the guide rope and the horses towards the trailer and tap him on the hindquarters with a rod, these are just two cues requesting him to move forward. He might fidget side to side, or move backward, but will eventually have a step forward. You also need to give the horse a break period, even if its short, after he has a tricky training concept, to further establish the behaviour.

The sort of training that you wish to recognize and stay away from is where the horse is solely motivated to act a certain way to prevent pain. This might be that he goes ahead quickly because he knows he’ll get spurs in his side along with a whip if he does not. While hard to discern, horses which have been trained solely through pain can behave well but they’re emotionally shut down and exhibit little character, fascination, or affection. You want your horse to enjoy training, as the family dog jumps to his feet once the leash is pulled out.

Shaping Behaviors

Behaviors won’t occur perfectly the first time. Training a horse to act a certain way or to perform a particular movement takes the actions has to be shaped until it’s performed just as you need it. By way of example, when training a horse to execute a flying lead change, the rider commonly begins with asking the horse to carry out a simple lead change with maybe 10 measures of trotting. This is initially rewarded, and over time the coach gets more specific, asking for fewer and fewer trot measures until finally the horse only performs a flying change without the further actions. Obviously there are a couple of different skills which the horse has mastered to execute this flying change, but the fundamental principle is the same, the coach shapes the motion to his liking. Another example might be correcting a horse that’s pushy on the floor. The initial step is to start asking the horse to move away his shoulders. When the horse moves his shoulders away from the coach, he’s rewarded. After several repetitions, the coach will ask the horse to move from only pressure with the lead rope. If the horse is asked to move away with body language only the first time, he’s unlikely to reply, but following the constant increases in stress, he learns what behaviour is expected, learns the way to do it more accurately and so learns economically without undue stress.

Is your Horse in the Perfect State of Mind for Coaching?

For training to work, the horse has to be in a great frame of mind. If he’s frightened or distressed, the training won’t go very far. The ideal training takes place once the horse is calm, content, and inquisitive. After the horse comes from the state, the trainer should locate a way to redirect and refocus his attention. If the horse becomes fearful because of a training object, like a whip or stick, then back off and spend some time desensitizing before the horse is more relaxed . If the diversion is something else (perhaps another horse is running in a field near by) then search for a way to get the horses focus back on you. You could keep your horse going, or request simple exercises that you’re confident that your horse can perform. If something that you did scared the horse, or when he’s becoming frustrated with all the training, then stop and spend some time rubbing him or walking until he relaxes and you can return to the training, beginning with another basic exercises using loads of rewards to produce the session enjoyable again. Don’t waste your time working with a horse that’s extremely excited or stressed. The horse won’t be able to concentrate on your training, and you’re certain to get frustrated.

The same concept applies to you too – if you’re frustrated after a day at work, or simply feel yourself losing patience with your horse – stop! It’s much better to pick up the training again on a different day then to push beyond your own mental limits and possibly do something you will later regret and that is going to set back your training.

Horse Training

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