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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All About Dressage

Dressage is one of the most important and widely practiced equestrian sports. The general principles of dressage date back to the Greeks but modern dressage has its roots in the renaissance period. Frederico Griscone founded an equestrian academy in 1532 where he trained horses to perform complex and spectacular movements. The sport became popular with nobility and dressage developed from a kind of circus performance to the dressage we know today.

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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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Mastering Natural Horsemanship

Most people think you control a horse by controlling its head. You put on a lead rope or a bridle and you use that to show the horse how you want him to start and stop and turn and move his feet and disengage this or that and other stuff. So how do you control a horse when you don’t have a lead rope or a bridle on him? Every day, there are a lot of people chasing horses around in pastures asking that question.

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The Training Tree: Introduction (Part 1)

Every animal handler or hope-to-be trainer needs to establish a relationship that allows the animal to understand them and figure out what they are asking them to do. The best and most effective system must be based on trust. The obedience or compliance we are looking for flows from that trust. The basis for a horse trusting you is that everything you do is routine and usual. There’s never anything sudden or startling going on. And the way you start that feeling in the horse is by doing everything you do around him in a rhythmic way.

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The Training Tree: Rhythm (Part 2)

Rhythm is at the bottom of the training tree because that’s how you get it all started. If the horse is not worried, not wary of sudden things or unsure of what is going to happen next, then you are starting to create a relationship built on trust. From the minute you come in contact visually in the pasture or by his hearing your footfalls or your voice as you come down the barn aisle, you want to be doing everything rhythmically. Steady footfalls, steady movements open a gate or door, everything steady and even to convey a feeling to the horse that everything is going to be consistent and predictable.

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The Training Tree: Freedom of Gaits (Part 4)

When we first start working with a green horse, we get his trust by working with him in a relaxed and rhythmic way whether we’re catching him, grooming him, or doing some groundwork with him in some kind of pen. You want the horse to be comfortable with your presence and with the general pattern of what you’re going to do today, based on what you did with him the day before and the day before that and the day before that.

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The Three Times You Should Punish Your Horse

If you’ve ever taken riding lessons, you can relate to your horse when it comes to being corrected for something you didn’t do quite right. Maybe the instructor just got a little sarcastic. Or maybe she raised things to the level of a good scold. Maybe you messed up big time and got yelled at big time. Or maybe to prove her point about what you did wrong, the instructor got really stern and made you do whatever it was over and over and over to drill into your head.

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Games People Play

Close up, horse shows look like serious business. They’re certainly business because their economics affect an awful lot of different people in a lot of different ways. For breeders and trainers and show managers and hamburger slingers and farriers and lots of other people, horse shows are a big investment both literally and figuratively.

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Managing Activity Levels

When a horse is just being kept as a pasture ornament, nobody pays much attention to his activity level. He pretty much does what he wants and being a horse that is mostly going to be ambling along grazing. As soon as we start training a horse or wanting to use him for some purpose other than admiring glances, however, we have to start managing both his mental and physical activity levels.

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