Anytime a horse interacts with a human, the horse learns from that
interaction. So even if you think of yourself as an owner, a rider, a
driver, or perhaps even just a spectator ... you are a trainer. Of course,
some of us are more interested in and focused on training, and so call
ourselves trainers. The Bible calls it the gift of teaching.
The relationship of a horse to his trainer is similar to the relationship
of a student to his teacher, a child to his parent, and an athlete to
his coach. Ultimately all these relationships are epitomized by our human
relationship to God.
So horse training is best accomplished by such qualities as kindness,
gentleness, encouragement, leadership, positive reinforcement, patience,
etc. Of course, some knowledge, and wisdom on how to apply that knowledge,
is a good thing too. (Know
what horse sense is? It is the inate ability that keeps horses from betting
Of course a horse - like a child - needs to know the meaning of "NO".
Firmness is important. But a wise trainer knows that a leader leads best
by being a servant. I best help my horse find his satisfaction and fulfillment
in life...through his submission to my will. That is the way God made
To say it another way: Human CONTROL over the horse leads to RESPECT.
CONTROL without PAIN leads to TRUST. It is a beautiful thing to watch
that trust grow in a young horse. It is a wonderful, solid basis for a
The lack of safety regulations in the horse world (compared to the motor
vehicle or aviation worlds, for instance), leaves huge responsibility
on the owner/rider/driver/trainer. Especially in the early stages of a
horse's development, every lesson must minimize risks to horse as well
as to human.
Perhaps the most basic means of communicating to a horse is through PRESSURE.
I create pressure through, for instance, my body language, or through
the rein, or through my leg. The horse wants to avoid that pressure. When
he performs the response I want, I release the pressure. The release lets
him know what I wanted. Next time (or eventually, after enough repititions),
he will give me that response more quickly. He soon becomes my accomplished
partner, as in a beautiful dance. Eventually perhaps we approach the stage
where it appears that "The horse and rider are one".
STAGES OF LEARNING:
Teachers say there are 4 stages of learning. Horses go through these stages,
just like humans:
says the 4 stages are:
last stage might also be called HABIT. For any physical reaction to become
habit, either in a human or in a horse, takes many (thousands of) repititions.
When we have done a particular movement or maneuver enough times for me
to think "That's enough of THAT!", THE HORSE PROBABLY DOESN'T
HAVE A CLUE! So I had better remember, I am not teaching a movement or
maneuver, I am teaching the HORSE! I have to be focused on him, not on
the maneuver. My goal is obedience, not a movement. When he does it correctly,
at first it is probably a mistake. When he does it correctly 8 times out
of 10, he is starting to get it. When he does it correctly 98 times out
of 100, we are making good progress, and now we are ready to do it in
the other direction, or in a new location. Or maybe now we can try it
on a windy day. In other words, we are now ready for distractions, which
will start the real learning. We are now at the threshold!
And remember, repitition for the sake of repitition causes frustration
for the student. But repitition that is looking for improvement causes
Following is a basic outline of the steps we go through with our horses
at Born In a Stable Horse Farm. Please feel free to contact us with questions,
suggestions, or comments. Or better yet, come visit to see our horses
GROUND TRAINING (preparation for riding or driving)
Simple driving away (he is walking or running away from me)
to the bit (spots 1 thru 6)
and dragging objects
rein to hip
to the bit
Brakes (straight collected stops and backing up)
steering (sensitive on the bit)
surfaces (tarp, water, bridge)
accustomed to harness (blinders, crupper, etc)