Have you made any progress yet?
Today I would like to explain how you can make your training more interesting for your horse – because this means that your horse not only comes to you with enthusiasm, but also looks forward to your training together!
How variation can provide motivation
Depending on what type of horse you have, you can get your horse enthusiastic about your training in very different ways. Most horses definitely enjoy learning and exploring something new, i.e. variety is the reason for having fun!
Maybe you already know that as well.
After a while, fixed procedures simply find their way into every training unit… Maybe you start with a few rounds of walk on the long rein or lead rope to warm up, or you start by asking for a few side steps.
Then you trot, change several times and finally canter. The whole program is done on two hands and if your horse was good, you might go for a walk for a few minutes.
Do you recognise yourself?
Routine vs. Surprise
Even if you do not feel addressed by this procedure:
Routines are always coming up, even as a horse trainer it takes a lot of energy to come up with new procedures and “surprises” – the daily routine is much more energy-saving…
Maybe we are all a bit of a horse in this respect? 😉
To get new energy in training and especially motivation in your horse, I can only recommend you:
Surprise your horse with new exercises and challenges!
Because your horse might starting “spooling off” your routine at some point only half-heartedly and without attention – variety will quickly solve the problem!
Because if your horse never knows what you want from him next, he has to concentrate much more on you and stay on the job – just like you do 😉
So try to work out new lessons / exercises with your horse during your next training session and change the order of your training structure.
A small training example
In the example above, you could start the warm-up by riding serpentines through the whole track or by adding large volts.
If you are on the ground, you could start by setting up your side-walks around pylons or by walking sideways over a pole.
There are hardly any limits to your fantasy!
Just make sure that your horse is warmed up enough to be able to do the required stretches, e.g. crossing the legs, without injury!
Shared challenges for more trust
You are welcome to include external objects in your training in addition to new lessons or exercises – this is not only fun, but also increases your horses confidence in you.
If you together overcome “dangerous monsters”, because you have taken the lead in a confident way, you will immediately rise in the respect of your horse.
Wake the tiger up in your horse 😉
If your horse is a bit suspicious at first and does not want to bite directly into it, it can help if you “run away” from your horse with the object in your hand and ask him to follow you with your body language and light impulses on the rope.
This way, your horse quickly has the feeling that the object “gives way” in front of him and he gains self-confidence.
You can really observe how frightened horses get bigger and bigger and at the end, might start to follow the object!
Once you have passed the first barrier of the approach, you can start to carefully touch your horse with the object. It is important that you work in really small steps depending on the temperament of your horse.
Always important: good timing
Be sure to hold the item “on the horse” until your horse stands still for a moment and then quickly take the object away again. In this way your horse learns, even if he may struggle a little at the beginning, that “the monster” disappears fastest, if he remains calm and relaxed.
The time the object touches your horse, you can extend it little by little and wipe your horse with it.
But don’t forget to reward your horse for his courage. 😉
A question of character
By the way, there are also horses that freeze, so to speak, and can only tolerate contact with an object under great stress.
With such horses you should choose a different tactic, otherwise your horse will quickly fall into a “learned helplessness”.
It is usually easier for such horses if they are allowed to move with the object – because movement reduces stress.
Body & mind in harmony
Did you know that you can also help your horse to relax by asking him to bring his head down? Because the body position of our horses is also closely connected to their mind.
A lowered head (at bow joint height or even lower to the grass) always means a relaxed – and usually also comfortable – situation for a horse.
This “body memory” can now be put to good use, especially with frightened horses, by teaching your horse to lower his head with a plucking impulse on the knot halter or cavesson.
You can also condition this behaviour to a specific word.
If this connection is then firmly fixed and reliably retrievable (Attention: This can take several weeks!), this exercise can also serve you well in dangerous situations. Or even if your horse finds an object very scary.
It’s the mix: Old & new combined
Never exercise with your horse for too long in a row!
This can be mentally very exhausting for your horse. It is usually recommended to change short training sessions again and again, e.g. with a new object like a sun umbrella, with old familiar exercises such as side walks.
This not only ensures more attention, but also a faster learning success – and at the same time you strengthen the confidence of your horse in you as a good “leader”.
Have fun trying it out!