Chapter 4 : Tips for Beginning Trainers

Training of a horse is a gradual process of getting your horse’s attention and teaching him what you want him to do.  You want the horse to think of you at it’s lead mare no matter the gender of the horse or the owner.  Your horse may be a natural leader, which can make training a challenge.

Naturally a horse wants a leader to show them how things are and what to do.  It is all part of being a herd animal.  So it goes without saying, that you are the one to be the leader in this scenario.  A horse will think of you as a leader out of fear or respect.  However you want lead by earning the respect of your horse through your interactions and relationship.

A horse will typically not receive any formal training until they are two years old.  With foals however can learn how to behave around people at an early age.  Spending as much time as you can with your horse will get him used to being around you, and then by association with people.

Once your horse is old enough to start training, you will start off with groundwork.  You are not to attempt to ride him.  The horse is not ready to ride.  Longeing, or ground training with a long lead rope is the first step in the training process. The longe line attaches to the horse’s halter and allows the horse to move in a large circle while you teach him commands.

Another important lesson for your horse is to teach him how to walk beside you on a lead.  Lead training includes teaching the horse to turn and stop at your command. This is crucial and you will use it daily with your horse.  Some horses will test you during lead training by trying to shoulder you out of his space.  Don’t ever let him get away with that.  If he resists this simple training, additional training in the future will be difficult.

Horses must be trained so they will accept being ridden, and they must learn to follow the signals of the rider.  Your horse needs to respond when it is asked to do something. This will prevent the need for whips or crops to punish or encourage the horse to do as you ask.  There is no set time for training sessions, so you don’t have to worry about the training sessions being to long or too short.  However remember the horse will need a break too.

The beginning of the training session should be used to warm up the horse both physically and mentally.  The horse will need time to loose up joints and warm up its muscles. Usually longeing is used as a method of warming up the horse.

The second part of the training session should cover everything the horse has learned from previous lessons.  New skills can be added as a tiny alteration of something the horse already knows.  Building on previously learned skills is the key to successfully training your horse.

When adding new equipment such as a saddle, you want the horse to see it, but then after a few minutes you need to take it away. You will need to repeat this for several days.  You want the horse to get used to the new piece of equipment so he will not be afraid of it.  Then let the horse wear it during warm-up longeing.  Once he is familiar to wearing a saddle, have someone sit on him for a moment as he stands still.  Work up to longeing with a rider on his back.  Add new things, but only for a short amount of time.

Another piece of equipment you will need to add gradually is the bit.  The horse needs to become familiar with a bit in its mouth, and just like the saddle this is a long process.   The horse will have to become accustom to swallowing saliva with a foreign object in its mouth.  To smooth the progress a trainer will slowly introduce a mouthing bit, for just a few minutes at first and slowly build up until the horse will accept it and will stop rejecting it.

The saddle is another piece of equipment that will have to be accepted slowly.  You will remove the stirrups and leathers at first.  Let the horse see the saddle and then hold the saddle over him.  Do not touch him with the saddle until he has lost his fear of it.  The first time you place the saddle on your horse be prepared for a lot of reassuring and stroking.  The next time you place the saddle on the horse, you will need to add the girth, then the leathers and the stirrups.  Only add each new piece of the saddle after the horse has lost his fear of the last piece of the saddle you introduced.  This will take some time so don’t become impatient.

All training sessions should end with a cool down period. You will want the cool down period to start when the training session is going well and before the horse becomes tired and frustrated.  The cool down period will allow the horse time to mentally and physically wind down and to relax.  You want the training sessions to be remembered by the horse as a pleasant experience. By ending the training session on a positive note, helps the horse remember pleasant things about the training session.  Now is a good time to allow the horse time to play then return him to the pasture or stable.

You will need to keep in mind the horse takes its cue from you, so it is important that you stay calm and unafraid.  Your horse will feel calm and unafraid also.  If you move, the horse will sense the change of direction from you, the lead mare and will follow.  Once the horse has learned your body language, he will naturally follow your lead.

In horse training there are rules to direct you on how to work with and train your horse.  Horse training is a science and an art.

When you are training your horse to do what you have asked, once he has done it you don’t want to repeat the same command and make him repeat the action too many times.  The horse will become sour with that command and action, which will make him unwilling to do it again.  Once he has done what you have asked, ask him to do it a few more times, but don’t drill into the ground just stop asking.  You can repeat the command and make him repeat the action another day, but not too many times in one day.  Then you give him something else to do.  You want the training session to be interesting for him.  You don’t want your horse to become bored with the training or you will have a difficult time in training him.

Another thing you will want to do is assess your horse’s disposition before you start working with him.  You want to know what the student is like before you begin educating him.

If the horse seems nervous, then you need to be quick to reward him.  You want to keep his confidence high so make sure you caress him often.  You will need to be careful when using aids.

If your horse has a willful disposition, then you will need to be persistent and patient in trying to get him to do what you have asked.

So you can see how important it is to know what your horse is like before you start training him.  You will be much more effective. 

As the trainer you will need to do all you can to help your horse learn the things you are asking him to do.  In order to do that you must understand your horse to see how you can best help him learn.

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