Training a horse can be a challenge. Horses are strong, fast, and dangerous. They often engage in “bad horse behavior” that leaves their owners frustrated and confused. The fact is, most people don’t know where to begin training a horse. In this article, we’re going to discuss foundations; that is what you should start with when it comes training a horse and what can you accomplish?
If you’re not a leader for your horse, when you’re out riding he’s bound to make his own decisions! If something scares him, he’ll take off at the first opportunity. Horses always seek out escape routes, and they feel the need to do it. So the first step in training a horse is establishing leadership.
If you’re a leader for your horse, then he’ll think twice before making any crazy moves. And if he sees you as the alpha of the herd, he’s less likely to engage in bad horse behavior. The only question is how you can get this leadership?
Fortunately its a lot easier than you would think. Dominant horses do things like move other horses around and get in front of horses that are of a more submissive bent. Experts have figured out exercises you can do when training a horse to put yourself in this leadership position, by kind of mimicking behaviors of the dominant horse.
The fact is the way you handle a horse on the ground says a lot about who’s in charge. When you go through a gate, does your horse patiently wait for you to pass through, or are you a bit worried he might crash through and knock you over? When you’re leading the horse, does he blow past you? If you see these kinds of cues, then its important to work on your leadership with the horse. Round pen training is one of the best ways to do this.
Once you’ve laid down a foundation of leadership the next step to take when training a horse is to teach basic commands or cues that will be used to direct motion during riding. These cues are called the “basic yields.” Basic yields are used to tell the horse to move a certain body part in a certain direction. For example, we might want him to turn and change his direction to his right. So we would apply pressure to the forehand on the left side. Horses move off pressure, so he will yield to the pressure and move to the right. That’s the concept of a basic yield. It can be done on the ground or in the saddle.
Before riding, a solid communication line needs to be set up between you and your horse. A great way to do this when training a horse is to focus on lunging. In the old days, lunging used to be mindless-have your horse run around in circles at high speed to wear him out. We now recognize that safety isn’t going to come about from some attempt to burn off his energy. Instead, safety comes from having a horse that listens to commands and respects you as a leader.
Saddle training a horse can begin once leading, yields, round pen, and lunging have been completed. The first part of saddle training is repeating what we did on the ground. After teaching the horse the basic stop and go commands, you’ll go to asking him to yield the forehand and the hindquarter.
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