Top Way To Ruin Your Training 4

The Fourth Way To Ruin Your Training

Never Rewarding

The fourth way to ruin your train­ing is by not giv­ing them a clear reward. One form of semi reward we have already talked about is release from pres­sure.  But here I want to talk about actu­al­ly adding some­thing the horse finds reward­ing.  This can be a food reward, a scratch on their favorite spot, or even quit­ting work for the day and head­ing back to the barn (and friends).

Each and every time we ask some­thing from our hors­es and they respond, we must give them a release of some type to teach them.   Oth­er­wise we are un-train­ing them.  I repeat…Each and every time we ask some­thing from our hors­es and they respond, we must give them a release and reward of some type to teach them.  Oth­er­wise we are un-train­ing them. As a dres­sage rid­er, I know this con­cept is not empha­sized enough. Most dres­sage rid­ers micro­man­age and go from one thing to the next, nev­er real­ly effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing to the horse that what the horse did was right. They nev­er give a full release. Remem­ber, we are not talk­ing about giv­ing it all away but you have to be able to soft­en any aid, even your seat.

In addi­tion, give your horse a break. Take a minute to stop, pat them, let them just stand still and chill.  After a good effort or a hard move­ment, take these moments of break to be friend­ly. My horse has a great work eth­ic and unlike some hors­es will keep going and work hard. That still doesn’t mean he doesn’t need this down time dur­ing rides to process, relax and get a long release.

I use food rewards reg­u­lar­ly.  It’s called pos­i­tive rein­force­ment and you can learn more about it by read­ing my blogs.  I car­ry sug­ar cubes on me all the time for those spe­cial moments or when I am work­ing on some­thing new, par­tic­u­lar­ly hard or chal­leng­ing.  I use sug­ar because of the ease of it melt­ing in the hors­es mouth quick­ly even with a bit in.

I love how Jonathan Field talks about train­ing. Like many nat­ur­al horse­man­ship train­ers, he has clear guide­lines about com­mu­ni­ca­tion with your horse through body sig­nals. What I like about his approach it how much he stress­es giv­ing your horse a break. He teach­es the idea of neu­tral. There is active neu­tral where you horse will main­tain what he’s doing until you ask oth­er­wise. For instance, when your horse is doing what you want, you leave them alone. He also talks of neu­tral where your horse will just stand still and hang out while you are friend­ly to him. Friend­ly is learn­ing where you horse likes to be stroked and touched, so the horse asso­ciates you with friend­ly stuff and not just work. Spend­ing the qual­i­ty time with the horse with­out demands is how he cre­ates draw, so the horse wants to be with him.

Love it!  I have noticed a huge dif­fer­ence in my horse when I start­ed just giv­ing him breaks to stand still and relax dur­ing the rides. Teach­ing this is key. For the ner­vous horse, it gives them a moment to be turned off; on pur­pose. For the lazy horse, it gives you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to train that they can also be turned back on.

 Stay tuned for the Final Way to Ruin Your Training