Top Way To Ruin Your Training: Lesson 2

The Number Two Way to Ruin Your Training


The num­ber way to ruin your horse is to nag, nag, nag. Nag­ging is the con­stant ask­ing over and over with­out get­ting a clear response from your horse. We have all seen the rid­er who con­sis­tent­ly uses her spurs every stride just to get her horse to bare­ly trot around the ring. With every stride the horse is get­ting duller and duller. Every stride the rid­er is untrain­ing the horse by teach­ing him to ignore her aid.

They key is under­stand­ing how to pre­vent this and how to cor­rect it when you come across a horse that ignores your aid, what­ev­er the aid may be. First you have to real­ize that you ALWAYS ask soft­ly and if the horse doesn’t respond, he either doesn’t know the aid or he’s been taught to ignore it. So you have two solu­tions.

#1  Teach or reteach the aid as if the horse is just being start­ed. Hors­es don’t inher­ent­ly know to go for­ward from pres­sure with the legs. That is a learned response from their ear­ly train­ing under sad­dle. I per­son­al­ly teach the horse voice com­mands on the ground through reward based train­ing before I ever get on their backs.  You have to teach from the ground first. I want the horse to con­sis­tent­ly trot off on the ver­bal com­mand on the lunge before I teach it under sad­dle. Once the horse knows the voice cue for trot, I use it under sad­dle in this sequence. In the walk under sad­dle, add pres­sure with both legs, give the voice com­mand to trot. Once the horse trots, I release the pres­sure of my legs. Reward the horse. Repeat. In this order.  Always put the new cue before the learned cue.  For instance, add leg pres­sure first then say trot.  In a very short peri­od of time, you will be able to stop the voice com­mand because the horse will have learned to trot off from the leg pres­sure.

#2  Increase the fre­quen­cy or strength of your aid until the horse responds, then clear­ly give a release. Repeat until the horse responds to the light aid. From the exam­ple above it would look like this. You ask the horse to trot off with a light pres­sure of the legs. The horse slow­ly and begrudg­ing­ly kin­da starts to trot. You increase the pres­sure with your leg but the horse responds even less. You fol­low your leg up with light but con­sis­tent tap­ping with the whip. The horse final­ly responds. You STOP AIDING IMMEDIATELY. Let the horse trot 2–5 strides then bring the horse back to the walk and repeat. Start­ing again with the light­est of aids and only increase as need­ed. Once the horse responds to the light­est of aids, give the horse a break. I find that this com­bi­na­tion of light leg pres­sure to increased pres­sure fol­lowed by LIGHT tap­ping with the whip gets the best response with­out hav­ing to be cru­el with the whip or leg.  So to repeat it would be light leg pres­sure (no response from horse), stronger leg pres­sure but not a death grip (no response) then tap, tap, tap, tap until the horse responds.  With poor­ly trained hors­es that ignore all sig­nals, you may have to annoy them with the tap­ping of the whip or go back and do halt/walk tran­si­tions to remind them of the cor­rect response to your aids.  If the horse is real­ly bulky, then retrain all of this on the ground first.  Remem­ber to repeat the sequence if you run into prob­lems again in the future.  Also, remem­ber, don’t start with the strongest of pres­sure.  In the long run, that nev­er teach­es them to move off a light aid.

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