Horse Training, Reward Your Horse For Trying

Horse Training

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Horse Training, Reward Your Horse

When you are horse training, reward your horse for trying. This does not necessisarily mean give the horse a bag of carrots for doing the least little thing. Horse training can be made more fun for the horse by offering a simple ‘good boy’, or a pat/stroke on the neck.

When dealing with horses each time you touch, groom, ride, or otherwise work with your horse you are horse training.

Simple Horse Training Techniques

One of the simplest ways to get a horse to do what you want is to reward it for good behavior. This may not be as simple as it sounds. I tried this experiment recently with a student of mine.

Creative Commons License photo credit: bclark

I asked her, “What is the colour of the ground?”

“Brown”, she said.

“Wrong”, I said. “What colour is the ground?” More forcefully now

She looked at me quizzically. “Black?”

“No, wrong again. WHAT COLOUR IS THE GROUND?” I shouted

She stopped and said, “I don’t know what you want me to say. It looks brown to me.”

“How do you feel? Do you know what colour the ground is? Do you want to answer the question again?”

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It Is the Horse's Best Guess

She responded that she did not want to answer again because she didn’t know what I wanted. She said she THOUGHT the ground was brown.
Creative Commons License photo credit: libertygrace0

The point being this adult, educated person to whom I could speak and discuss things, was angry and dumbfounded because she didn’t know what I wanted and didn’t want to answer the question any more because she didn’t like how she felt. She did not want to respond because she didn’t know what I wanted.

Imagine how the horse feels if each step at a walk or trot they get told, wrong – more forward – wrong – to fast – wrong – turn now – wrong – wrong -wrong.

If I would have told my student – “Brown is pretty close, but not the colour I’m looking for. Try again.” HOw do you think she would have responded? I think she would have enjoyed the guessing game and tried to figure out what colour I was looking for.

Same thing for the horse. As soon as the horse starts to do anything remotely correctly – reward your horse for a job well done. After all it is the horse’s best guess to the questions we are asking him. How does the horse know to move its body when we touch it with our heel if we haven’t shown the horse with a positive reward, what we want.

Horse Training Rewards

Listening to your horse when performing horse training exercises is important to understand the reward you need to give the horse. Even if response you get from your horse is not the exact thing you want, the horse should be rewarded for trying. After all it is the horses best guess of what you want.

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Horse Training, Reward Your Horse

Creative Commons License photo credit: andreavallejos

Horse training rewards may be as simple as a voice ‘good’ or eatible treats like carrots. Often within a horse training session a reward can be not asking the horse to do anything. Just to relax, such as performing a free walk.

It can also take the form of the release from pressure. For example when you squeeze with your legs to ask the horse to go forward, as soon as you feel the horse moving forward – you stop squeezing with your legs. He knows – you squeeze – he moves – you stop squeezing. That is the reward – the stop squeezing.

 What to Do Next With Your Horse Training

Next time you are riding and training, and your horse gives you something close to but not exactly what you want – Reward him/her and see what happens. You may be surprised s/he will be more willing the next time to offer you what you ask for if you offer a reward to your horse.

How do YOU reward during your horse training sessions? I’d be interested to know what you do to encourage your horse to perform his/her best.


About Laura

Laura Kelland-May is the founder of Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Development Program. She more than trains horses, she trains people to train their horses. In addition she is a Sr. Judge and can offer insight into What the Judge Is Looking For. Follow her here and get more tips.
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2 Responses to Horse Training, Reward Your Horse For Trying

  1. I am so impressed with this blog! As someone who works with special needs children, I really learn from good trainers – for horses, tigers, or people! I am gonna refer parents here, to learn more about how to deal with their children!

  2. Laura says:

    Thank you Claudia:
    We all need a little praise once in a while don’t we! If we are rewarded for trying I think we would all try that extra little bit harder. sometimes people ask me why I stop so often when I am riing/training. I say to let him know he has done something correctly. If I ‘drill’ it … he will always wonder —> did I do it correctly? At least this is what I think.

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