|The art of training horses is one that takes years of experience to
master. There are some simple guidelines that will help you along
the way. Remember that horses are individuals, sometimes what works
with one; will not even begin to work with another. Handlers too are individuals.
Often one person can get results with what appears to be the exact methods
that failed for another. Or vice versa!
Training a horse can be simplified to a series of responses. Before
a horse can be taught to lead, he must be able to be haltered. Before a
horse can be haltered, he must be able to be approached, etc. etc. Our
interaction with the horse is one of cause and effect. If you understand
the stimulus to communicate with a horse, you can begin to anticipate how
a horse will react in any given circumstances and to the handler’s requests.
It requires patience and training yourself FIRST.
It helps if you understand what works FOR the horse and then
the horse. What works FOR the horse is to develop training communication
skills that already make sense to HIM. What works WITH a horse is applying
these to accomplish the training goals you have set.
The easiest way to begin is to observe a group of horses at liberty.
The social skill that a horse uses to interact with the herd is an interactive
weave of hierarchy. Posture plays a significant role in this communication
between horses. It is also a language of zones and pressure and release
For example, take the circumstances of group feeding. Any horseman who
has a degree of experience knows that if you have 5 horses being fed grain
in an enclosure you:
This is due to the horses’ rules of hierarchy, greed and the comfort zones
of a horse. Very seldom will the horses stay at the same feed container.
You will notice that the dominant animal will move several times, and the
other horses will almost always give way easily. This is the reason for
the extra feed container; the least dominant horse will not have a place
to eat in the jockeying around for location if you do not add the extra
Put at least 10 to 15 feet between the feeding containers.
Put at least one extra container of feed out.
If they do not move aside when the dominant animal heads for their
container or if the other horse response is not rapid enough it quickly
becomes Ask, Tell, and Demand.
ASK The dominant horse will swing its
rear toward the non-yielding horse. This is a simple request “ I want you
TELL The dominant horse swings its
hind end closer towards non-yielding horse, while pinning ears back at
the same time. This has become “ MOVE NOW!”
DEMAND The dominant horse kicks at,
or bares teeth and bites the non-yielding horse. Now the simplest translation
would be “ WHEN I SAY MOVE, YOU MOVE!”
Horses who have been pasture mates for an extended period have often
refined this communication to a twitch of an ear back, a lowering of the
head, or just the movement of the dominant horse in the general direction
of a less dominant pasture mate. You want to see a free for all, just add
a newcomer to the arrangement. Until dominance order is established, and
re-established, it can be quite a sight and often dangerous to the individual
You can apply this to your communication with
a horse. They understand the Ask, Tell and Demand sequence instinctually.
Remember the “Put at least 10 to 15 feet between the feeding containers.”
Comment above? Why is that? Because horses have comfort zones and the closer
the stimuli, the quicker and sometimes more abrupt the response.
In the group-feeding example, to put the containers any closer would not
allow the yielding horse opportunity to move off with out conflict. Horses
have zones that apply to everything. Ground zones, and undersaddle zones.
Ground zones include distance and
angle of approach. If the dominant horse approaches from the rear, the
yielding horse will most often move off forward. Approach from the front
would have caused the horse to turn away, or back up. You can apply the
same when working a horse in a round pen, long-lining, or longeing a horse.
As a handler of horses, you must require that a horse respect your personal
When your horse encroaches upon your space,
ASK Request that the horse gives way
by leading him to the position where you are comfortable.
TELL If he still steps into your space;
interrupt his motion with a rebulk. This can be as easy as an abrupt tug
on the lead line, or the wave of a hand into the horses space, while other
horses may need a tap from a crop a few times before they understand the
diameter of your personal space.
DEMAND Do WHATEVER it takes to cause
the horse to move over out of your space, a loud verbal rebulk or harsher
Undersaddle zones are divided
at the girth.
To over simplify the leg aids:
By applying the aids in the correct zone, you can request a response that
the horse will understand. You still need to use the Ask, Tell and Demand
sequence. For example:
The front end of the horse is controlled by a leg aid on and slightly in
FRONT of the girth
The hind end by an aid in BACK of the girth
ON the girth means forward motion.
You are developing a relationship in the process
of attaining a condition-response reaction. Just like the dominant horse
in the pasture, your requests will soon be responded to readily, as the
horse learns that responding to subtler stimulus avoids the inevitable
escalation of pressure.
ASK Give a very light leg aid to encourage
the horse to move forward.
TELL Repeat the cue, with more emphasis.
DEMAND If he does not respond, immediately
and enthusiastically chase him forward with a sharp rap of your heel or
a firm tap with a dressage whip behind your heel.
It is important to note that the DEMAND
is not intended to become abuse. Take your cue from the dominant horse,
he or she does not come after the non-yielding horse to kill or maim the
animal, using only the degree of force necessary to accomplish results.
It is a dance of applying pressure and relief of pressure. The horse
knows it got it right when the pressure is released.
TO BE CONTINUED….