Creating Partnership Between Horse & Rider
Dana's Training Philosophy
A relationship between horse and rider is unlike any other partnership. Riders sometimes forget that when we mount up and step into the saddle, the 1,200 pound animal beneath is submitting to another being nearly one tenth their size. We ask them to move out, slow down, turn, bend, jump, collect -- the requests are endless!
What makes a horse listen to its rider? Nothing! Nothing makes a horse do anything. Riders who try and make their horses respond, find their horses defensive, tense, and sour. Horses respond to humans because they are patiently trained, asked, and requested of through negative reinforcement and operant conditioning.
Four things are needed to have a successful relationship with your horse.
Communication, Trust, Respect & Understanding.
- Communication- Riders need to make sure their cues are strong enough for the horse to understand, yet subtle enough to maintain softness and suppleness. Its important to make sure your cues and requests are consistent and based on negative reinforcement - applying and releasing pressure when a correct response is achieved.
- Trust – Earning a horses trust can be difficult. Trust is gained through ground work, round penning, natural horsemanship, quality time, and one on one contact between horse and handler/rider. Riders will become familiar with their horses reactions, and you will be able to keep your horse calm in times of stress. Your horse will trust you, and you will start to trust your horse.
- Respect – After communication and trust has been established, respect begins to come into the picture. The horse will begin recognizing you as the leader, and the head of the 'herd' which consists of you and the horse. Your horse will mind your space, and not crowd in on you. He will focus on you more, and watch where you place your body. You will be able to move your horse around a pen by specific placement of yourself in accordance to your horse.
- Understanding – This is often the hardest point for riders to master. After weeks of patient schooling and great rides, there will be that one day when your horse wigs out, doesn't listen, and acts as if the first 3 point don't exist. I tell all my students “Horses are not robots.” They are thinking, breathing animals with a personality, and while horses don't have random off days, there are other underlying factors that could throw them out of wack. Ex- a loose shoe, sore back, discrepancies with other herd members, weather, the list is literally endless. There is always a reason, and as riders, we need to understand that as perfect as our horses may seem, they are flawed, and it will show through.
Are you having problems with one or several of these points? I, as your trainer, can help you establish the horse-and-rider relationship needed to achieve successful and safe riding.
What to Expect from Training
I'm able to work with a wide range of horse personalities and levels of training. Each new horse I work with goes through an evaluation process.
The most common cases I typically work with are:
- Green horses who need hours riding or starting time in a specific discipline.
- Middle-aged horses who have been trained in a specific disciple, and need touch up training and lessons with their owners.
- Actively-ridden horses with owners who need help overcoming certain issues when riding and training.
- Conditioned riding and show type horses with owners who express an interest in showing, or switching to a different discipline.
Each new case is carefully evaluated for 2-3 rides before active training begins. Evaluation rides help me come to terms with a horses personality, and develop the best method of training for that specific horse.
New Case Timeline
- First 2-3 Rides – Evaluation rides. First day consists of ground work, round pen work or lunging. I teach the horse some basic communication so my training is more effective. Second and third day may consist of ground work, along with some basic riding to monitor reactions to applied pressure.
- First 4-10 Rides – Hopefully by now, the horse has accepted me as a rider and has respect for my requests. We will work on bending, and obeying subtle cues such as light leg and rein pressure. By this point in time, the specific discipline is usually unimportant.
- 11-20 Rides – Once the horse is supple to the rein and leg, bends easy both directions, can shift its weight to the in/outside with a light seat, specific training according to the goal discipline starts. Owner/rider requests and goals are incorporated into the training. Example- Side passing to open a gate on a trail. Some lessons with the owner/rider may be incorporated.
- 20-30+ Rides – By this point in a horses training, we will practice the standards to the specific discipline until consistent, and results can be repeated by the horses owner/rider. Lessons with the horse and owner generally start at this point in the training.
This is a brief and general outline of the 'most common' cases of my training. Owners should understand that every horse is different, and will move along at their own pace.
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