Asking a horse to drop their head with a soft and immediate response is one of the best things you will ever train into your horse. When a horse is stressed and cortisol is running freely, the head will be high and stiff, somewhat like a periscope in some horses! In this state there is little you can do with your horse until the cortisol levels have dropped. Horses do not learn anything at all when they are in a state of stress. Also there are obvious safety concerns for the
In the horse world, there are two main types of people, horse riders and horse trainers. While trainers are an excellent option for starting young horses, they’re not always the best solution for problems with older horses. This article will discuss some of the reasons why this is so, and suggest that a more effective path may be to train them yourself. Riders have lessons focusing on their riding position and application of the aids. If a rider has a problem with their horse
Recently a student pointed out that my work is defined by how I listen to horses. The traditional way of interacting with horses is to tell them what to do, its unidirectional communication. The human tells the horse what to do and the horse must do it. If the horse protests, then the human gets stronger and ‘shows the horse who is the boss’ until the horse does it.
This is how I was taught and this is what I did for many years. I was good at it and most horses did what I a
Many people use positive reinforcement with horses, instead of or as well as other forms of training (negative reinforcement, habituation, desensitisation, shaping, classical conditioning). As with all horse training it helps to understand the theory behind the method.
Research indicates that positive reinforcement may be more effective than negative reinforcement, and holds many benefits for equine well-being. Horses learn quicker, retain the learned tasks longer, experien
When a young horse misbehaves, the lead mare may send them out of the herd, running them in circles until they give signals saying they accept the rules of the herd structure. Running a horse around you simulates this situation and creates a response similar to the above. It’s used to engender connection and develop a healthy relationship between human and horse, to burn off excess energy and to condition horses. It can be done using a lunge rope, a 12” training rope or no ro
Anthropomorphism is defined as the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-humans and is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. It’s possible that it leads people to like animals more when they have apparent human qualities. It may also create a greater willingness to help them in situations of distress, result in less willingness to eat them and an increase in the moral concern of them. We have all been trained in childhood by films full
For quite a while I have been trying to work out exactly what it is that I do with horses. I have called it Natural Horsemanship, and in the past I have studied Parelli, Monty Roberts and other advocates of Natural Horsemanship. I have definitely incorporated many valuable tools into my kit from this source but I don’t follow any particular method and do not only do Natural Horsemanship.
I have called it Science Based Equitation because I have a degree in Equine Science and
In most articles or books about horsemanship you’ll find a reference to timing. While many people are aware of the idea of effective timing the practise of it can be quite difficult to master. It’s one of those things that set the distance between a beginner and an experienced horse trainer. It can appear to be a small thing in the moment but the progression of effective training is totally dependent on it.
The single most important area where timing is crucial is the releas
Lately I've been thinking about health and training. Recently I was working with some horses and noticed one had an enormous bean at the entrance to the urethra. This is caused by smegma build up forming hard lumps or 'beans' in the folds of skin around the urethra entrance. It's normally fairly small and easy to remove during regular sheath cleaning, but this was something else. It was so big the skin had pulled tight over it and I just couldn’t remove it. The farrier commen
I’m sure you’re familiar with this word being used in relation to horses, but what does it mean and how do you get it? A dictionary translation is ‘a relationship in which a person or thing is linked or associated with something else’. We can rewrite this as ‘a relationship in which a person is linked with a horse’. There are two important words here, relationship and linked. A relationship is a two way thing and a linkage is the connection. You cannot make your horse connect
So what is desensitisation? Well the opposite of sensitisation! And that’s the tricky bit, you must be very clear of what you’re doing as you might accidentally do the opposite of what you want and sensitise your horse! To desensitise your horse to a stimulus means to reduce its response. Horses are flight animals and can be very reactive to things in the environment. This is necessary when they’re roaming around in the wild, but can cause problems if you happen to be sitting
Whenever your horse does something that you've asked for it's imperative that you give a reward. This reward lets the horse know that they gave the correct response and 'marks' the spot where the behaviour occured, making it more likely that the horse will offer this response the next time you ask. Most people know how to train a dog. You ask the dog to do something, the dog does it and you give a treat. That’s called positive reinforcement, you reinforce the behaviour with s
When I meet a new horse we often go through what I call ‘the conversation’. This is where we check each other out and decide how we’re going to progress from that point. To someone looking on not a lot is happening but between the horse and myself there’s HEAPS going on. The best way to explain it is by describing an encounter I had a few days ago.
I met a lovely filly for the first time after being called in to assist her new owner. I asked if I could hold her while we sto
This is a great game to play with any horse that has a rusty ‘go button’. It develops forwardness in the horse, gets snappy responses to leg aids, builds horse and rider communication/relationship and develops the riders’ seat. Horses that won’t go can seem ‘lazy’ when in fact they’re ‘blocked’, desensitised or don't understand. They don't respond to normal leg pressure. There are a number of reasons why this can be the case. Some horses won’t move forward because their respo
TRAINING/DETRAINING Everything we do with our horses is training them or de-training them. We call it training when the horse ends up doing something ‘better’ than they had previously, and we call it de-training when they end up doing it ‘worse’. Horses don’t know the difference between training sessions and just hanging out. Everything we do when we are around a horse will affect its behaviour in the future, for better or for worse. This is a very important point. When peopl
This heading sounds a bit like a topic for a conference, not the horse paddock. But it’s a very important subject to be aware of when working with horses. A confident human is one who feels solid in the world; they have a good idea of where they are and what’s coming up, within a flexible framework. The same goes for a horse, in order to feel confident they need to understand and accept what is currently happening and be fully prepared for upcoming events. Frequently when I’m
Here is a great little exercise that will improve your feel for your horse and your riding skills, make your horse suppler, and increase safety when riding. Sounds too good to be true? What I’m talking about is extending your horse out within a gait and contracting it back in. Often when I’m teaching a student they will complain about a horse being too slow or too fast in a gait. A horse creeping along with minimum effort is no fun to ride, but neither is a horse that’s going
I was very fortunate when I changed all my horses from being ridden with a bit to a bitless bridle. Without exception they all took to the bitless bridle without a problem. At the time I just thought that was normal and everyone’s horses would be the same. Since then I’ve learnt a few things. Sometimes when I meet a new horse and their owner wants to try bitless, the horse doesn’t take to it instantly. So I developed a training program to assist the transition to a bitless br
Everyone’s looking for the happy place. This is where life is beautiful, there are no pressures on us and no stress, this is where we can relax and enjoy what the world has to offer. Horses also look for the happy place. When horses are in the happy place they can relax and unwind their muscles, their minds are open to learning, as there is no stress, and they are much more open to their human.Far too frequently when I’m out and about training horses and their humans, I find
I am very fortunate to be able to meet and work with many different types of horses. Every single one of those horses without exception has a brain. Horses are capable of understanding an enormous amount of information and are very good at retaining it. Yet constantly when I watch people work with their horses they are trying to make the horses’ body do things. They want to move that leg over, send the body backwards etc., so they expend an enormous amount of time and energy