How Patterns Can Get You Into Trouble

When you work in predictable patterns that create feelings of rhythm and relaxation, your horse begins to trust that you are a comfortable, safe place to be. You never surprise or startle the horse as you groom or lead or load him into a trailer or work under saddle because you always use a predictable, calm, rhythmic approach to whatever you do when you are with him.

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Emotionally Neutral Horse Training

Your first objective every time you are around a horse is to get yourself emotionally neutral. When you approach a horse in an emotionally neutral state of mind, the horse perceives you as a safe place to be. That helps him be emotionally neutral, too. Then you can open up whatever line of horse-logical communication you want with him.

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Heeding: Loading the Scared Horse

Loading a horse into a trailer is a test of how accurately the horse responds to the step cue you put on him by heeding. Trailer loading isn’t a separate skill you and your horse must learn. It’s just applying the step cue you taught your horse with basic heeding to a specific task. When the horse understands your step as an cue, meaning he is to follow each of your steps with a step of his own, you can use that cue to ask him to enter the trailer with you.

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Heeding: Loading the Disobedient Horse

Loading a horse into a trailer is not a separate skill that horses and their handlers need to learn. Loading is simply a response to the step cue you’ve taught your horse through heeding. The horse that has learned to stay at your shoulder, trust your consistency and trust that he’s got your full attention whenever you’re with him. He has learned that your step is a cue for him to take a step. So he will match you step for step and walk right into the trailer. The step cues are the same and the horse’s response to them should be the same as if you were asking him to walk down the barn aisle or into an arena. When the horse understands heeding, walking into a trailer is just one step away from what he already knows.

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Gender Differences: Training Stallions

Some people make a big deal out of a horse’s gender and say that people should handle horses of different sexes different ways. We work with every horse, regardless of gender, the same way. We communicate with the horse the same way regardless of its sex. The sequence of skills a horse learns as it progresses up the training tree does not change with its gender.

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Gender Differences: Training Mares

The first horse I ever bought for myself was a registered Arabian mare. Her name was Rafsu and after all these years I can still remember her registration number. She was one of my two favorite horses ever and she survived my early attempts at breaking her, which was how people perceived training back then. She just forgave all my mistakes and kept on being a nice mare despite everything I did wrong.

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Heeding: Working In Corridors

Heeding is a horse communication system that proceeds in small, horse-logical steps that never create fear or antagonism in the horse. It requires being consistent in the moves you make around the horse, introducing just one small bite of information at a time, and making sure that new information is just one step away from what the horse already understands. Heeding builds a solid foundation that the horse and trainer can use to play reining or show jumping or dressage or any other game they decide to play.

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Heeding: Advanced Ground Control

Ground control precedes horse control. If a horse doesn’t heed its handler on the ground, it is never going to listen when that person swings into the saddle. A lot of horse people mythunderstand ground work. They think it just means snapping on a lead rope and pushing or pulling a horse from the barn to the arena or from the stall to the crossties or hopefully into a trailer. One of the ways to make people think you’re magic with horses is if you can control the horse from the ground constantly and consistently for the purpose you want.

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Gender Differences: Training Geldings

Years ago, I had a client with a two-year-old Arabian colt that she wanted to keep as a breeding stallion. The colt was argumentative and constantly challenged anyone handling him. I got along with him fine but he was more horse than she could handle. She was scared to death of him. The only time she was even brave enough to pet him was when I was holding him in his stall for her. She finally decided that gelding him was the best course of action.

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The Training Tree: Contact (Part 5)

As our baby horse progresses up the training tree, we’ve given him a solid base of trust. We work with rhythm and relaxation doing anything we do from catching him to grooming him or putting on his leg wraps or giving him some play time before we put his tack on. He’s comfortable with us and the general pattern of the work we do together. When we first got on his back, we allowed him to move with complete freedom, never interfering with or restricting his natural gaits. The next step is to get him working with freedom of gait while seeking and accepting contact with the rider’s hands.

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The Training Tree: Straightness (Part 6)

We get halfway up the training tree before we introduce the concept of straightness to the horse. We spend the first months of a horse’s training working on rhythm, relaxation, and freedom of gaits. In this early phase of training, we want him to feel comfortable carrying the weight of a rider. In the second phase of his training, we start to develop the quality of his forward movement. We ask him to accept the contact between the bit and our hand. Toward the end of his first year of training, we put our focus on straightness.

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