Think, Learn, Grow
Posted by admin on May 14, 2018
I got through my first ever demo which allowed me to show members of the public how I start horses. I had two re-starters that hadn’t been sat on for 6 months and hadn’t done a great deal, the other had never done anything. All three were very different in behaviour and they presented different issues which allowed me to show how I work with various personalities and get them ready to ride and progress.
Working with the three also allowed me to demonstrate how both horse and rider gain confidence in each other and go on to build a great partnership! All the while, spectators were able to engage with me, ask questions and learn whilst I was working. Well I learnt a lot from doing this too; one thing was that people were unsure how much they should do with a horse and when is a good time to leave them be, or carry on.
I think a lot of people don’t have the confidence in horses when they are being started and this vibe goes from them into their horses. People asked how I was so confident and what I was thinking whilst I was working. I’m observing what the horse is doing, how his body moves, the look in his eyes and what his ears are doing and assessing if he ready to progress. Observing his behaviour allows me to go to the next stage or add in things like the use of a flag over their body when I saddle up, which helps them get anything out of their system (a buck and so on), so hopefully we don’t run into any problems when I’m on! Also a good thing I learnt from studying another trainer was that he said “get up there and think it’s grandma’s pony”! This calms your nerves down which calms your horse.
One rein stops. I teach all my horses how to stop on one rein before I get on and this gives me a lot of confidence in the horse as I know how to disengage the horse’s hind quarters if anything happens when I am on. This confidence vibe from me goes into the horse allowing the horse to trust me and accept me as his leader. It helps when they get worried about things later on, or in those first few rides as you can get their mind back on you and focus on the job in hand.
I learnt one rein stops whilst starting horses in Australia though I have adapted it to work for me with the training I do in the UK. I work on one side at a time allowing the horse time to think, learn and grow. I also think this keeps my signals very clear and the horse softer. I believe that a horse can learn the stops very quickly as there is an instant release from what I have asked as soon as they complete the task, so they’ve found the answer themselves.
I start in the round-pen. I aim to get them to be supple in my hand with nothing else and allow them to find out what I am asking of them. So there is no stress and everything is really calm, this way they start wanting to be with me and looking to do work for me in order to please me. I begin by standing by the horse’s shoulder placing my hand on the opposite side of their head with my hand between their nose and eyes. I ask for their head by putting pressure onto the horse, then when he bends his head and comes off my hand, I instantly reward him by letting him go, I repeat this three times each side until he gets the idea.
I also work on the top of his head, putting on a little pressure until the horse drops his head, as it helps when tacking up. I keep the sessions short at the start come back to each exercise throughout the day with the youngsters. As you can imagine with any young animal or person they have a short attention span so I like to ‘get in, get results and get out’ making the horse a winner! You should see their confidence grow and how much more they try to give you when you make them a winner. Same with those first few rides and troubled/naughty horses – you make them winners and their confidence grows making your job so much easier and rewarding, as your horse is looking to give you more each time.
It has now been a week since my demo’ and the three horses I started have been out on five rides around the woods and farm! One has already gone by a tractor and trailer on the track, I really think this is one of the best ways for them to see traffic and get used to it. Meeting tractors on the farm is casual and the horses have space to move, allowing both horse and rider to be relaxed. I am able to show the horses all this as normal life so when I do go up the lane and meet some traffic, we are both quietly confident!
I have seen the benefits in horses when I present them with something and then allow them time to find the answer by themselves in a relaxed way. This way of training the horse will always give you more than what you ask. If you are able to ask your horse for something and allow them to do the rest, they will give you more than you originally thought and you will find that a willing, ‘eager to please’ horse in his initial training transfers into your competing, whether it’s him picking those legs up just an inch more over a jump, coming off your leg easier in dressage or taking a turn a bit quicker in show jumping. It could just be that difference in the final result but after all, it’s about building that trusting partnership that we are all trying to create.