Some Thoughts On Training

It's been a long, cold, icy, snowy, cold, long, long, frigid, cold, unbearable, snowy, long winter. Since there isn't an indoor arena where Dino is boarded, we haven't been doing much riding for the past two months.  This is mostly due to the fact that the outdoor arena resembles either a.) the frozen tundra, or b.) an ice skating rink the majority of the time.

This has given me more time than is probably healthy to sit inside, curse whoever invented winter in the first place, and think about training horses.

Training horses, while it certainly takes a great deal of skill, knowledge, experience, and sense of timing, is not as complicated as some people make it out to be. It isn't a mysterious state of oneness with the horse, it isn't about showing the horse "who's boss", and it certainly isn't something only a fortunate few are capable of. Training horses is, first and foremost, all about common sense, consistency, and simplicity.

Horses aren't dumb, they just need things explained to them  in a simple, consistent way that they understand, much like small children. Most horses, unless they are evil and/or have some sort of physical or mental deficiency, will quickly figure out what you want if you only explain it to them clearly.

Michael has been learning this recently as he is helping me teach Dino some simple showmanship maneuvers, and also improving his lunging and round-penning skills. He has discovered these major truths:

  1. Getting emotional doesn't work. When you get frustrated, the horse gets confused because he has NO CLUE WHAT YOU WANT. "Do it you dumb thing!" is not a command, request, or cue in any sense.
  2. Asking clearly for a movement or behavior, and then backing off and saying "Good Boy!" to let the horse know he's got the right answer makes for happy and productive training sessions.
  3. End on a good note. Once you've gotten a few good tries or correct movements from your horse, quit. He'll understand he's done a good job, and you'll feel like you accomplished something.
  4. Don't panic. The calmer you are, the more relaxed and confident your horse will be in you and your leadership, even if there is a horrifying goblin in the trees!
By keeping these things in mind and using clear, consistent aids to ask Dino to do something, Michael has gone from being "that guy with the treats" to "that guy who teaches me cool things". I'm proud of my boys.


  1. Last night I was that guy who fed him apples :)


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