The year is coming to an end – time to look back and see what you have achieved with your horse this year?
And what is even more important: How many great moments you had with your horse!
Maybe you go through your photos? Or even write down what you experienced? You will probably even find out that you have accomplished much more than you had dreamed of at the beginning of the year!
We often underestimate what our horses can learn – because we are often neither aware of what they could learn nor how they learn.
Maybe you admire the many great ideas of many horse owners and trainers from time to time?
Do these people just have particularly smart horses?
Or is there a trick you can use to teach your horse even more and expand his repertoire infinitely – given time, of course?
I say: Yes! Because there are only a few important rules that you have to follow in training – then your horse can also learn pretty much everything ? .
So today I would like to philosophize a bit with you about how a horse learns, what you have to do for it and give you some new ideas about what you could teach your horse.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, can you?
First of all, I would like to make one thing absolutely clear:
No matter to which breed your horse belongs, how it has been trained so far or how old it is:
It is never too late for your horse to learn something new.
Of course, it is often easier for young horses to get involved in new exercises.
But that’s because they probably have more practice at the moment. Especially when they are young, there are many more new things to discover and experience – if only because your horse’s wealth of experience is not yet so great.
The brain of a young horse is therefore anyway busy creating new “data highways” for everything possible – and this is supposed to be more difficult for older horses.
In humans, too, scientists are not in agreement as to whether the brain finds it more difficult to distinguish between important and unimportant information over time, or whether it simply takes longer to store it.
But no matter what the reason is that older people and horses find it a little more difficult to learn new things – they can definitely still learn new things without any problems!
So your horse’s age is never a reason not to keep his mind busy.
And to get creative! After all, learning new things is a lot of fun in the end – in the best case, for you and your horse ?
In the end, it doesn’t matter if an exercise takes a few days, weeks or even months – the journey is the goal and also regardless of age, breed or willingness to learn, some exercises suit one horse better and another worse.
So right from the start, stop comparing yourself and your horse with other horse-human pairs. This only leads to unnecessary frustration!
After all, your time together should be fun.
This is how your horse learns best
To teach your horse something new, you should have an exact idea of how the lesson should look like in the end.
Only then can you give accurate and precise aids!
But the clearest picture in your head will not help you if you expect your horse to perform the exercise perfectly from the beginning.
So think of your horse’s learning process as if you were going on a journey with your horse – with a clear goal in mind – where you positively reinforce and reward each step that brings you closer to your goal.
Maybe you can remember the game of “hitting the pot” that was played as a child?
The goal was that, blindfolded and with a wooden spoon in hand, you would eventually bang on the pot – guided only by the “Hot!” Or “Cold!” shouts from the other kids.
You can imagine the game with your horse in the same way:
Since he neither speaks our language nor can we explain to him exactly what we want him to do, our horse is actually the “blind cow” in every new exercise.
And in this “blind cow” it is our job to give him a first idea with our aids which part of his body he should move and to reinforce every little step in the right direction.
Most horses often have 2 problems in this process with us humans:
- Does the human not explain to them precisely enough what he wants him to do. Many horses have namely forgotten to simply try out when the human is most pleased, because they are afraid of the punishment if they make a mistake.
- Many horses resign even if they are anxious to fulfill the task, because they are usually too little rewarded for the first small steps and therefore can not even see in which direction the journey should go. Many horses then “shut down” and no longer react or even try to withdraw.
It is therefore important that you reward your horse for every step in the right direction and do not punish him if he thinks in the wrong direction.
Also, make it as easy as possible for your horse to do the right thing and, especially in the beginning, be satisfied with little – because then your horse will understand much better what you want from him.
Then it’s all about timing!
Your horse can only learn if you reward something at the moment it shows a behavior or a second later – otherwise you may be encouraging it to behave in a way that does not lead in the direction you want.
You have to observe your horse very closely and train your eye in the best case. The finer the nuances you can recognize, the easier it will be for you to reach your goal together!
Let’s think about hitting the pot again:
You turn slowly in a circle blindfolded and don’t have the faintest clue which way to go to the pot. Suddenly, someone shouts, “Hot!”
You stop in your spin and start walking (or crawling) in the direction you were looking when you got the hint.
But what if the person didn’t call hot at that moment, but a few seconds later? Then you go in the completely wrong direction… If now again someone calls “Cold!” you are rightly confused.
You probably turn around or go around a bend – and whether you get closer to the pot depends entirely on how promptly the corresponding feedback (“Hot!” or “Cold!”) comes from your spectators.
Your horse, like the “blind cow”, is dependent on your feedback at every moment in order to get closer to the goal.
And he can’t blindly grope for it like he does when hitting a pot until he eventually finds the pot – and yet he often feels like he’s flying blind to an unknown destination without really arriving.
So, especially in the beginning, it pays off for both sides if you praise even the smallest impulse, the slightest shift of weight in the right direction – because this lets your horse know that he is on the right track.
Your dialogue is really like a conversation in different languages – and the more vocabulary you learn, the easier the exchange will be at some point.
For someone “foreign,” however, your many “buttons” for different lessons are again a challenge.
Therefore, make sure that all people working with your horse speak “the same language” and don’t tend to confuse your horse.
Horses are super able to distinguish who is in front of them and of course they can learn “multiple languages”, but it is still nicer if “left” always means “left” and not “right” tomorrow. I think you understand what I mean ?
In any case, there are no limits to your imagination in training!
From the “classics” compliment, kneel, lie down, Spanish step and climb over “mountain goat”, jumping back and forth, smile, shake head, waltz, sit, retrieve, target and composure training with tarpaulins, flags, balloons or flutter tape in all variations up to more complex tasks like slalom or jumps alone, free 8 circling or covering up lying down you have so many great possibilities to keep your horse not only physically but also mentally fit until old age!
And who knows, maybe you’ll almost create your own little “show program” along the way?
In any case, you don’t need much time for it!
Because such exercises fit perfectly before or after your regular workout and can also be incorporated into everyday life.
With a few minutes a few times a week and good timing, you will soon progress faster than you ever thought!
With this in mind, I wish you not only a lot of fun with your horse today – and lots of great creative ideas in training – but also a happy, healthy and successful New Year!
Maybe this is a good reason to make some good resolutions concerning your horse 😉 Be sure to let me know what you wish for and teach your horse. I’m always happy to see something from you!
All the love,