Training Horses

A few thoughts about training horses

Training horses is like being a professional musician: it requires natural talent and a lot of practice.

I began training horses almost thirty years ago because the behavior of horses and the way they think has always fascinated me.  Each horse I have had the opportunity to work with has increased my understanding.  I love the process of helping a horse learn what I am teaching them; that it won’t hurt them, that they can do it and that they can enjoy working with us in partnership.

Training must build a balance of trust and respect between horse and human.  A trainer must have the instincts and experience to recognize how a horse is feeling, how much they can absorb at a particular time, and when they are becoming overwhelmed.  A frightened or defensive horse does not learn well. Treating a frightened horse aggressively can create a terrified, panic-stricken horse, who becomes a danger to themselves and their handlers. On the other hand, allowing an over confident, obstinate horse to persist in bad behavior can create a horse who never learns to do as they are asked or to live up to their own potential, and is also a danger to everyone.

Much of what we ask of our horses does not come naturally to them. For example: to carry a predator on their back, to confidently approach new things and enclosed spaces, to accept the restraint of a line or tie, or to allow us to guide them with body and bridle.  Because a horse is a creature more inclined to flight than fight and reaction than “reflection”, a trainer must help a horse to learn new “reflexes”.  Each time a new thing is introduced (everything is new at first) and the trainer reassures the horse that it is not harmful or dangerous, the horse develops more confidence and begins to learn that the next new thing may also not be dangerous.  Each time a horse is given the opportunity to “figure out” something and their success is rewarded by positive feedback, they begin to learn to “think first and react second”.

Each horse learns at their own rate, just as children do.  I believe they do best being allowed to fully understand and become confident with each stage of training before jumping ahead and risking overwhelming the horse and causing a training set-back.  The trainer lays the groundwork, adds the next step and repeats, then helps the horse to progress and repeat as much as they need to feel self-assured and happy in their performance.

One of the wonderful things about horses is all that we can learn from them; things like patience, strength and appreciation of beauty. I hope I never stop learning.

Please contact me by following this link  Wendy McLaughlan.