Going Back to School! Learning Never Stops for Horses and Riders

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Just sent my son off to school from a long summer break.? My biggest hope is that he continues to enjoy learning.? I figure that if he likes school and enjoys learning new things, his academic performance will take care of it's self. Young Horses are Learning to Learn Horses learn to learn.? During the early training stages, a horse is learning to trust the handler.? As the horse learns to trust the handler, he will show more ?try? when presented with a new learning situation.?? If the horse actually is ?enjoying? his training program, learning should come that much quicker and easier.?? Riders and trainers that focus on keeping the young horse relaxed and their mind engaged will turn out a more dependable horse that will learn quicker and try harder than a horse that is trained under stressful and redundant/boring conditions. Learning is a Step By Step Process Recently, I learned how to swim the breaststroke.? I had always had my own rendition, but knew it really wasn?t correct.?? I had to reteach both my brain and my body the new movements and timing, piece by piece.? I practiced the leg kick first, then the arm stroke, and finally put both movements together to focus on the timing.? As soon as I put the movements together, either my legs or arms would fall in to bad habits. When I refocused on my body, my timing would go off.? So it has taken me months to master a slow, methodical breaststroke, thanks to a very patient swim instructor.? ?But one great reward is that all of my swimming has improved! Training horses with an advanced maneuver is similar.? We break the steps down into pieces and then put the steps back together very slowly.? ?If we are teaching a horse to side pass, we might first teach a forehand pivot and then rearhand pivot.? Once we have successfully gained control of their front and hind end, we can put the steps together and work on timing.? We don't expect everything to be perfect.? At first it may look like the horse is zig-zagging across the arena.? With time and patience the horse's timing will improve and the maneuver will evolve into a smooth and effortless side pass. WATCH this video from Louisiana State University Ag Center on training a young horse. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0MCSAKbPb8&feature=plcp Learning Never Stops ? No Matter How Old/Experienced You Are As I get older, I am more convinced that I need to continue learning new things.? Both my mind and my body need the stimulation that trying something new can give.? I think older horses are just like older people.? They need to be challenged with new situations.? We can revitalize our more experienced horses by teaching them something new.? When I was going to school in College Station, Texas, the 4-Hers were very competitive with their senior horses.? Many had titles at both the state and national level in western pleasure and horsemanship. Once these kids mastered the more popular events, they would take their solid show horses and try reining or working cow horse.? Both the kids and horses benefitted from trying something new.? It was great fun to watch the western pleasure champions gallop after a cow, or stop deep and spin hard.? Horses and the kids looked like they were having a great time. Sometimes a horse can really benefit from a career change.? If your horse is acting bored (pinning his ears, swishing his tail, basically lackadaisical) you may want to throw a different saddle on its back.? I have seen western pleasure horses do cross country and dressage horses try western trail.??? When we purchased my first horse Blue, she was a soured out western pleasure horse.?? One day I put my friends hunt seat saddle on her, just for kicks, and we never looked back.? Blue turned out to be a great hunt seat horse, and was definitely happier moving forward. LEARN MORE about team penning from Discover Horses. http://www.discoverhorses.com/all-about-horses/team-penning/ WE WANT TO KNOW What training advise do you have for keeping your horses happy and willing to try something new?? Let us know in the comment section below!Dr. Christine Skelly is an extension specialist at Michigan State University where she founded and directs My Horse University, an online horse management education program.? Dr. Skelly developed the free online course Purchasing and Owning a Horse 101, in partnership with Discover Horses.Follow My Horse University on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and take the FREE online course Purchasing and Owning a Horse 101.

School is beginning for everyone, including your horse. Photo by corsi photo from Flickr

School is beginning for everyone, including your horse. Photo by corsi photo from Flickr

Learning to swim the breaststroke is a step-by-step process. Photo by C-Serpents from Flickr

Learning to swim the breaststroke is a step-by-step process. Photo by C-Serpents from Flickr

Many kid's show horses turn into mom and dad's team penning horses once the kids go away to college. Photo by California Cowgirl 1 from Flickr

Many kid's show horses turn into mom and dad's team penning horses once the kids go away to college. Photo by California Cowgirl 1 from Flickr