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: Putting It All Together (Part 12)

Followed in the correct sequence, the steps in the training tree methodically prepare a horse both physically and mentally to play whatever game the rider likes to play. The training tree has ten levels that have to be mastered in sequence: rhythm, relaxation, freedom of gaits, contact, straightness, balance, impulsion, suppleness, putting the horse on the aids, and collection. Now, not every horse is going to have the physical ability or the mind to go the upper levels. And more than 90 percent of the time, a horse gets limited by his rider’s ability level. But following the training tree sequence can help any horse be the best he can be.

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Equine Patterns and Habits

Horses are creatures of habit. And the habits they learn can be good ones or bad ones depending on who’s handling them. And whatever habits or patterns they have when they come to you can be changed if you go about it in a methodical, horse-logical way. If memory serves, one of the horses that taught me this was a Morgan stallion that belonged to a friend of mine. This was back in the ’60s and I don’t remember the horse’s registered name but we called him Little Brother.

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