Horse Training Challenges: When To Stop and When To Push On

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When to push on in a schooling session and when to end it is the decision underlying every aspect of training horses. Making the correct choice usually constitutes a main difference between being just a rider and being a horseman.

When a horse regularly refuses to jump, the horse may be telling you he doesn't understand or that he has a physical problem.

When a horse regularly refuses to jump, the horse may be telling you he doesn't understand or that he has a physical problem.

There is no absolutely definitive answer. It should depend on whether you're actually accomplishing a training result or feeding your ego. Listen to what your horse is trying to tell you.

The question is particularly pertinent when a horse is acting anxious or disobedient, particularly when He's repeatedly spooking at an object, a sound or a jump, or is otherwise misbehaving. it's up to you to figure out what's causing the horse's reaction and how to deal with it. You must solve the problem at hand, so you can continue your training, in a way that won?t have long-term negative side effects.

Horses are sensitive creatures?even horses who seem dull. That sensitivity is what allows us to ride and train them?they learn and react to our aids and body movements. Often it even seems as if they read our minds.

They can tell when we're tense or unsure, confident or relaxed. When we're anxious or uncertain, our body movements and our aids speak to them in a garbled language, and that makes them anxious too, because they can't understand our directions. it's as if your trainer started teaching you in Greek. Unless you're fluent in that language, you won?t understand what you're being told and You'll become confused and anxious. it's the same for your horse.

It's the Rider's Issue.
At least 90% of the time, training problems are the rider?s fault, caused by something we are?or are not?doing. That's why riding and training horses is a constant exercise in developing humility. While confidence is tremendously important in dealing with horses, ego is useless.

Spooking is a common offense, and the rider?s reactions can elevate it from a misdemeanor to a federal offense. The rider gets scared, usually because either they've almost fallen off or because the incident prompted their own strong fear response. So the rider becomes tense and stiff every time the horse looks at anything.

This scenario most often plays out while working in a ring, because the horse gets surprised by something being different?a jacket on the fence or a chair left outside the ring. So the horse spooks, perhaps wheeling and throwing in a buck or a small rear. And now he has to go past the imagined monster, again and again. But each time the rider anticipates a spook with clenched fists, a stiff back and no leg, perhaps even holding their breath or yelling. To the confused horse, this reaction confirms his fear, so it feeds both anxieties.

In this case, you need to ride through the problem to achieve a training effect for both the horse and rider, even if it means asking a stronger rider for help.

Spooking needs to be addressed thoroughly and positively, preferably at that moment. But you also have to know when to stop, when you?ve made your point and it's time to move on.

Sometimes it Really is the Horse.
A behavior issue can be a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg' Perhaps you didn't cause his behavior (refusing to jump, bucking, rearing), but most likely someone or something did. And anticipating it can cause you to become tense and stiff, which only magnifies the behavior.

Here's an example: The horse has a jumping problem?either refusing or bolting after a jump. it's usually not that he can't jump?with both these issues, the horse is often a powerful, even aggressive jumper. But maybe He's been too much horse for a previous rider, and He's started refusing because He's confused by the garbled language of the rider?s aids. Or maybe he takes off because the rider becomes loose in the saddle (even falling off) and belts him in the back and the mouth, frightening him. So the rider also gets scared and negatively anticipates the problem at each jump. And now you have this horse, so it's your problem.

One of the first causes you should eliminate when a horse develops behavior problems is a physical one. He may be trying to tell you something?s wrong.

He could also be saying he doesn't understand what you're asking him to do. This is a time to put your ego aside to take an honest look at your training program. Have you really developed him mentally and physically for what you're asking' Remember, just because you did it this way with your last horse, it doesn't mean you can do it exactly the same with this horse. Horses are as individual as humans.

These two situations are cases of stop, take a few steps backward, and try again. But sometimes you have to quit, admitting that the horse is too far gone and needs a new job of some kind.

Matter of Circumstances.
Sometimes spooking, bucking, bolting or rearing is merely a case of bad timing. A car backfiring or a gun being fired, a loose horse galloping past, wind or heavy rain, or some other disconcerting event.

Some horses react more to unexpected changes than others. it's the high-octane, smart and sensitive ones who usually react the most to surprises?the same temperament that makes them so quick to respond to your aids and so brilliant over jumps or across country.

Your test as a horseman comes when a sensitive horse becomes unglued by his surroundings. Do you reprimand the horse, attempting to make it clear that his behavior is incorrect, drilling him until he responds correctly to you' Or do you reassure the horse, working him quietly until He's settled, then rewarding him for attempting to be brave' Again, it's a feeling you need to learn, depending upon the situation, the horse's temperament and your own ability.

Bottom Line.
Pressing on is usually the answer, but how you do that is the key. Success may require you to dramatically improve your riding, or it may mean having your trainer work your horse through a problem that you can't fix yourself.

Success may mean you have to interact more strongly with the horse, to make sure he knows you're in charge, not him. Or you may have to be quieter, softer and more reassuring?it depends on the horse.

No matter what, it's up to you to figure out what's causing the problem and to fix it. Your horse can't. That's why you have to leave your ego at the barn door.