10. December 2013 00:06
You always want your horse thinking, "What's next?" If you constantly keep him guessing about what you'll ask him to do, he'll be forced to tune into you. That means mixing up your training sessions so you don't practice the same exercises in the same order. It also means that you're conscious of being a leader for your horse and not letting him decide what you're going to do. For example, if you're riding a straight line toward a fence and your horse starts to turn left before you cue him, turn him right. With repetition, he'll learn to wait for your cue because every time he guesses, he's always wrong. Always do the opposite of what the horse thinks you're going to do.
Also, be sure to include variety in your training program. Variety is crucial to not only keeping your horse happy and interested in his job, but will stop him from anticipating you. Don't just ride your horse in the arena and keep drilling on the same exercises. Train him on the trail. You can practice the same maneuvers - sidepassing, two-tracking, bending, etc., only your horse will be more interested in his job because he'll be in a new environment.
3. December 2013 00:06
If your horse has a tendency to race ahead when you're riding in a group, here's a way to teach him to relax. Find a controlled environment like an arena or a large pasture and enlist the help of a friend on horseback. Start at the walk and ride side by side, about 15 feet apart. Keep both horses on a loose rein and dare them to race ahead. If at any time either horse speeds up, immediately pick up on one rein and turn the horses toward one another and head back the other way. When you turn your horse, do so with urgency so that he has to hustle his feet. If you just let him turn lazily, he's not going to connect racing ahead with stopping his forward motion and having to redirect his energy.
When you're headed in the new direction, be sure to put the horse back on a loose rein and dare him to make a mistake again. In order for the horse to learn, he has to commit to the mistake. If you try to babysit him and keep him from speeding up, he'll never get any better and you'll always have to watch over him. Practice the same steps at the trot and then the canter. It shouldn't matter what gait the horse is in, he should remain at the speed you set him at and not race ahead.
With repetition, the horse will realize that when another horse comes up beside him, it's not a race, and he better keep his attention on you because at any second you might change directions and go back the other way. If he does speed up, he'll quickly realize that it doesn't matter because you'll make him turn and go the other way. The hotter and more nervous your horse is, the shorter the distance will be between turns initially. Eventually, he'll be able to walk next to the other horse on a loose rein without ever speeding up.
26. November 2013 00:06
If you're having trouble with your horse getting ahead of you, stop and assess the situation. Without realizing it, you may be unintentionally giving your horse "pre-cues" to a maneuver. When I was riding Mindy regularly, I had to be very careful of this. Because she was so in tune to me after 13 years of working together, if I even thought ahead to what I was going to ask her to do, she'd start doing it. Unconsciously, my body was giving her a subtle signal. I had to learn to not even think about the next maneuver until the exact moment I wanted her to do it.
I often see riders unconsciously cueing their horses in clinics when working on pattern exercises like the Cloverleaf Exercise or Flower Power. In each of these exercises the rider is supposed to ride their horse in a straight line before turning him one way or the other. What often happens is that the rider will be thinking ahead to the turn they're about to make and will start to lean in that direction. It doesn't take long before the horse realizes that when the rider leans to the right he's going to ask for a right turn. So he figures, "Why wait until he asks me to turn right? I'll just start to turn as soon as I feel him shift his weight." In instances like this, it's important that you are conscious of what your body language is telling your horse. If your horse can feel a fly land on his body, you can bet he can feel you shifting your weight, no matter how slight, in the saddle.
19. November 2013 00:06
The key to getting true collection isn't in the horse's head and neck, but rather from his withers on back. It's about creating impulsion and then driving that energy from the horse's back end to his front end. But, there's no point in driving that energy forward if the horse doesn't know how to give vertically to the bit, otherwise, that energy will just go up and over the bridle. That's why we teach Vertical Flexion at the Standstill first before teaching a horse how to collect vertically at the walk, then the trot and then the canter. He has to understand the basics before you ask him to do more complicated maneuvers. When people haven't taken the time to teach their horse how to be soft and give to the bit, that's when you see false collection. False collection is when the rider is forcing the horse to tuck his head and neck in and his hindquarters are strung out behind him. It's an ugly picture and only teaches the horse to be stiff and heavy and ignore the bit.
12. November 2013 00:06
It's common for horses to get excited when they see other horses on the trail. Anytime a horse starts to use the reactive side of his brain and it feels like you're losing control, redirect his energy in a positive way. When a horse uses the reactive side of his brain, the only way to get him to use the thinking side and put his focus on you rather than what he's worried about is by moving his feet forwards, backwards, left and right. What you do with your horse isn't important - what is important is that you move his feet with energy, constantly changing directions.
You can head off most of your problem by not waiting until your horse reacts to other horses before putting his feet to work. Most people would not like to go trail riding with me because I'm constantly weaving in and out of trees, jumping over logs, circling around bushes, sidepassing my horse across the trail, etc. I very rarely put my horse on a loose rein and just let him go down the trail looking for something to spook at. Before you even reach the other horses, put your horse to work, bending him in circles, two-tracking him, practicing transitions, etc., anything you can think of to get his feet moving forwards, backwards, left and right. The more you move his feet and change directions, the more he'll focus on you and not on the other horses.
5. November 2013 00:06
Vertical flexion is something that you'll build on with each give. First the horse has to understand that when you pick up on the reins and apply pressure with your legs he needs to maintain whatever gait he's in and give to the pressure. As soon as he understands that concept, then you can ask him to hold the soft feel longer. A "Hot Potato Give" will turn into holding vertical flexion for a stride. One stride will turn into two and before long, two will turn into twenty. The key is not to get greedy and ask the horse for too many strides at first. When a horse starts doing well, our first instinct as predators is to ask for more. But the trick to training horses is when it feels good, quit - instantly give back to the horse. It usually takes a few days for a horse to get consistently good at the Hot Potato Give at whatever gait you're working on. Then you can move on to holding the soft feel longer. If you start holding it longer and the horse gets worse, he's telling you that he's not ready for it, and he needs to get better at the Hot Potato Give before progressing.
29. October 2013 00:06
When you ride your horse outside for the first time, I've found that it is best if you can give him a path to follow so that you can just put some steady miles under his feet. Ideally, I like to take my horses out on a wide dirt road where I can walk, trot and canter. What you don't want to do is take the horse on a narrow trail because he'll feel trapped and claustrophobic. And if he did get scared or overreacted to something, you wouldn't have room to move his feet and get him to use the thinking side of his brain. Remember, anytime a horse uses the reactive side of his brain, you need to move his feet forwards, backwards, left and right to get him to relax and use the thinking side of his brain. The more changes of direction you do, the quicker the horse will use the thinking side of his brain and pay attention to you.
22. October 2013 00:06
When you first teach a horse something, it's a concept lesson. In the concept lesson, your goal is to get the general idea of the lesson across to the horse. When you first ask a horse to do something, he won't automatically know what to do. In fact, he's probably going to do everything but what you want him to do. For example, when you ask the horse to back up on the ground, he'll probably stick his head up in the air and ignore you. He might turn left, he might turn right, but the very last thing he'll try is taking a step back. When he takes a step back, if you release the pressure, he'll look for that answer again. However, if he takes a step back and you don't release the pressure, he'll go through that whole cycle of options (rearing, ignoring you, turning left, turning right, etc.) again. Then he'll come back to taking a step backwards. If you miss releasing the pressure the second time, it'll get even worse. Every time a horse does what you want, or even acts like he's going to do it, you've got to release the pressure so that he knows what the answer is. I'm so obsessed about it that when first teaching a horse something if he even gives the impression that he's thinking about doing what I want, I'll still release the pressure. Remember that a thought will soon turn into an action.
15. October 2013 00:06
If you show your horse in an event with patterns, like reining or dressage, don't practice the pattern from start to finish during training sessions. Doing so is likely to cause your horse to anticipate the next maneuver and get ahead of you. Taking your horse through the same patterns over and over is not only boring, but teaches him that the same things happen at the same places in the arena, in the same sequence. Instead of waiting for your cues, your horse will be thinking, "I already know what comes next, we've done this a million times" and will take matters into his own hands.
When you're schooling your horse, work on individual maneuvers within the pattern. I rarely take my horses through an entire reining pattern. Instead, I focus on individual maneuvers in each training session. In one session, my focus might be on improving my horse's backup and in the next it may be on lead changes. I'm constantly evaluating each horse, figuring out what they need the most work on. The thing about horses is that they're always fluctuating. One week I may need to focus on softening my horse and the next week the focus may be on speed control.
8. October 2013 00:06
Anticipation is a common problem that plagues horses in all disciplines, particularly horses that are hot-blooded and sensitive. Horses are great at predicting our behavior and learning our habits, and it isn't generally too hard for them to do so. As predators, we tend to follow the same routine, day in and day out. It doesn't take long before our horses start to figure out what we're going to do and where we're going to do it.
Anticipation isn't necessarily a bad thing though. In fact, it's one characteristic that makes horses so trainable. If they didn't anticipate, we wouldn't be able to train them. For example, when we ask a horse to go forward using Squeeze, Cluck, Spank, we're relying on the fact that in time the horse will start anticipating that after the squeeze comes the cluck and after the cluck comes the spank! Eventually, he moves off of just the squeeze. The trick is to use the horse's anticipation in our favor.