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Handling and Training
Voice Commands
Stand for Mounting
Basic Lunging
Boots and Wraps
One-Sided Horse
Boss Mare
Pair Bonds
Changed Personality
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Handling and Training

By: Galadriel Billington

8:35PM Apr 12, 2004

Ground manners, handling from the ground, is the root of all training. Everything done in the saddle follows naturally from what the horse has already learned on the ground; during leading, lunging, and in-hand work. Each time you handle a horse, he is influenced by the interaction. Every turnout, every grooming session, every ride affects your horse's basic training and ground manners.

Handling of any kind has an impact on your horse's manners and his training, but what we usually consider "training" is when we are actively teaching something new. In order to teach a horse a new command, you must set up the situation so the horse can perform that command, use the aids you wish him to associate with the command, and reward him for it. Eventually he will come to associate the aids with the command, but first you must devise a way to *show* him what you want him to do.

Here I have several compilations of successive circumstances in which I do just that: ask for a movement, show the horse what movement to perform, and reward him for it. I also have general guidelines about how much to do in any one session in order to keep him fresh and attentive.

Articles in this section

Catching a Horse

Many of us have had difficulty from time to time with catching a horse. The horse may be wary of humans, may associate catching with work, or may just be hyperactive and not feel like being caught.

Teaching Voice Commands

I find voice commands an essential part of training a horse. In many disciplines, you are eventually expected to ride your horse subtly, with no voice at all, but I think that as a basic training method they are useful and very clear to the horse.

Teaching a Horse to Stand

Do you want your horse to stand still when you're handling him, leading him, when he's tied? Does he wiggle, paw, turn and face you, or otherwise act distracted? Let me ask: Are you sure that anyone has ever properly taught him to stand still? It could be that he's not misbehaving; it's just that no one has ever really sat down with him and really explained what is expected.

Teaching a Horse to Stand Still while Being Mounted

Many horses are mischevious at mounting time; they won't stand still, they wiggle, they move away. Usually this is because no one has ever properly taught them to stand still--they're not misbehaving, it's just that no one has ever really "sat down" with them and explained what is expected at mounting time.

The How and Why of Basic Lunging

Lunging is a method we use to exercise a horse or to teach him something new without a rider on his back. A horse is controlled by the person doing the lunging, so we also use lunging for teaching riders; the person on the ground controls the horse's speed and direction, and the rider can focus on him/herself.

Using Leg Wraps or Boots

The use of boots or leg wraps very much depends on what you want to get out of the boots or wraps. You should carefully examine what you want to do and how much boot to use.

The One-Sided Horse

Most horses are stronger on one side than the other--just like humans. With people, the preference for one side shows up in right-handedness or left-handedness. Most horses are "left-handed." For a horse, a preference for one side means that he can bend in that direction more easily, his balance is better when turning in that direction, he finds it easier to pick up that lead in canter, and he is just generally better at EVERYthing on his preferred side. Usually, we'd prefer that a horse be able to perform equally well in both directions.

Partnership with the Rider

There must be a leader in any situation. In any grouping of horses, someone must be in charge; someone must be assertive (self-confident, bold) enough that the other horses will follow his lead.

What to do when your Horse is the Boss Mare

A horse demonstrates respect by staying out of your space, not attempting to direct your movements (never pushing you out of the way or dragging you around), permitting you to direct his movements, and obeying your directions. A lack of ground manners is an indication of a lack of respect.

Pair Bonds, or Horses Who Hate to Leave a Buddy

It's not unusual to see two horses who have a tight friendship. It's also not unusual for that friendship to be so extreme that it is dangerous to separate the two. It's so common that it's got quite a variety of names: pair bonds, herdbound, buddy sour... Even at less intense level, it can be difficult to ride or even just handle one of the horses, when the buddy isn't nearby. This isn't cute, it's dangerous. A horse must exhibit manners when being handled. Since two horses are likely to be handled separately most of the time, a bonded pair is not just an inconvenience, but a constant hazard. Horses in this situation must become accustomed to being separated.

The "Aloof" Game

Horses use body language to express almost everything. A dominant horse plays the "aloof" game when confronted with a new situation.

Sudden Change in Personality

I was asked about a problem with an ex-racer. He had started out kind, willing, and quiet. After some time with his new owner, however, he became hard to handle. This isn't exclusively an ex-racer problem. This has happened to many, many people with many different kinds of horses. So my response is not geared toward ex-racers, but rather a horse whose personality has changed since he was purchased.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.