How to Approach Your Horse in Training and Performance

As we go forward with the Waterhole Rituals™ in my blog, I am speaking to you either on Sharing Territory™, or shaping behavior, or working on the performance and training of the horse. How we approach the training of the horse will help the friendship grow. We need to bring a program that inspires the horse to want to learn and follow our direction. To do this, we need to keep tabs on our horse’s attitude while we are working with our horse, and then we need to make adjustments in our leadership to keep the quality of the connection. We as leaders must also focus on the rhythm of our horse while we are working with him. I have found that I can communicate clearly to my horse whether I am in the saddle or from the ground by matching his rhythm and then signaling my request between the strides. I will often times choose a slightly different rhythm from the horse that would cause the horse to want to match my rhythm. For example, if my horse is walking too fast I will choose a rhythm in my own body that I would like him to have rather that trying to slow him down with stronger requests.

When we ride or work the horse at liberty we must maintain the horse’s desire to follow our lead as we are directing him. This takes practice in developing the know- how in making the right choices in what program to use and how to lead. Nothing is achieved in the battle or disconnect.

The quality of the horse’s performance is achieved from the program we choose for him each day. If the program is not working, we need to pick a program that would restore respect and the horse’s desire to follow our lead. It is important that the horse finds the program to be enjoyable.

A trainer in my past Chuck Travis once told me what the difference is between a champion performance and a first place performance. In a first place performance we are looking for a performance where there are no mistakes. In a champion performance, what we are looking for is that it looks like it is the horse’s idea to perform with enthusiasm. That struck me deeply. I was thirteen years old at the time. What struck me is that if a horse has the capacity to want to perform once he is a seasoned horse, we need to work more on developing this attitude in the beginning rather than working with a horse when the horse is not in this state of mind.

When you work with your horses, choose a program that brings out the horse’s desire to perform and the attitude you would like him to have. Notice before you begin each day what your horse’s attitude is toward you and then work on his attitude to be bonded, trusting, respectful, willing and focused. This should bring about an effortless rapport, magnetic connection, and a desire to follow your lead.

You will need strong, consistent leadership, and the ability to bring this leadership to your horse in inviting and decisive ways through adjusting your program to bring about the willingness and interest of your horse. If the attitude of the horse is enthusiastic the performance is automatic.

Also, take time to adjust your horse to have the right energy stored up in him to be able to do the job you will ask of him. The Uberstreichen Exercises bring quiet, forward energy, focus and relaxation, and the last Ritual Liberty Dancing™ brings exuberance. Sharing Territory brings connection and relaxation. As you jump around in these exercises to build a better connection, train in short windows of time with lots of pauses in relaxation. If your horse’s energy is low, ask for extended canter. When your horse has increased his energy, he should be able to respond to your aids easily. This will help the performance to be more forward. If you get your horse too excited, work on standing still or a nice slow walk. If you cannot get that, the Uberstreichen Exercises will bring back his energy in balance. If you like, please share your daily routine, and how it works for you to achieve a better connection and bond.

May the spirit of the bond be with you!