TBD on Ning

Last night I set my equine goal for 2013....to earn qualifying scores in 3 dressage shows. Do you have any goals for 2013? 

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To ride again.

It's been terrible to be unable to do something I love so dearly.

Your goal is GREAT! I'll lay odds you'll attain it! Good luck, Carol.

That was also my goal for 2012 and I didn't make it! Still trying!

To train my horse.

What aspect of training are you concentrating on achieving?

Be it ever so basic as lead training for starters.  Any tips, suggestions for a new horse owner?

Lots of patience! and treats to reward any incremental step toward a task you are concentrating on achieving. This is was I learned from training dogs and kids...I've never owned a horse but I'm sure it will work.


The first thing, Susan, is to do some reading and also access, if you can, a community of experienced horse owners for advice and discussion. Of course, you can also ask for the help of an experienced trainer in the beginning. If money is an issue, you can probably arrange, at least, a "consultation" with him or her to get some advice and a direction in which to head.

A few classic books on horse (and rider) training are: Complete Training of Horse and Rider by Alois Podhajsky, dressage icon and former head of the Spanish Riding School; True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse and Human by Tom Dorrance--natural horse training, from one of the men who started it in modern times; Groundwork and Colt Training: 101 Ground Training Exercises for Every Horse and Handler by Cherry Hill; Downunder Horsemanship, by Clinton Anderson, With Ami Hendrickson; Lyons on Horses: John Lyons’ Proven Conditioned-Response Training Program by John Lyons; and the list goes on. Training is like many things--expect to get as many opinions on any one topic as there are trainers. You have to use good sense and intuition to pick what will work for you and your horse.

I'd concentrate on what's known as "natural horsemanship," when you're considering training. That approach uses our knowledge of the horse in general, a horse's particular personality and propensities, and gentle, natural persuasion and positive reinforcement--and as Carol says, lots of patience--to make long-lasting positive changes in a horse's behavior. This is versus the older, more traditional way of training that uses punishment and negative reinforcement to "force" horses to do what we want. I think the choice for and the benefits of "natural horsemanship" are a no-brainer.

I disagree with Carol on the use of "treats" for training. Treats should be just that--special, happy surprises given sporadically (never on a regular basis) that are purely a joyful, fun, spontaneous experience between horse and human. When food treats are used routinely, a horse begins to expect them. He/she begins to anticipate them. Both of these things can lead to "bad" behavior, or to a kind of rote behavior that one wants to avoid in training. 

Positive reinforcement SHOULD be given every forward step of the way, but this should take the form of  happy spoken praise, with a lilting voice, that conveys approval--"What a GOOD job!" "Such a GOOD boy!"--and a pat or a snuggle. Or, in a more structured situation, "release." For instance, when trying to get a horse to stop throwing his/her head, one can place gentle downward pressure on the horses poll, never removing one's hand until the horse's head drops; then, IMMEDIATELY, removing the hand--thus "releasing" the pressure. Accompany that gesture with vocal approval--"Oh, yes! That's right!"

I hope this helps a bit. The first, most important thing is to learn about your horse, gain his/her trust, bond, then don't hesitate to ask for help from someone you trust who has more experience.

The horse's emotional and physical well-being should always come first. 

Thank you, Angharad for your reply.  I found a couple of books on the subject of horses.  My horse and I have gone through a major life change both trying to get situated in new surroundings.  I adopted her from a neglectful owner.  Since them, I haven't been around my horse for two months now while she has been getting used to her new home at a boarding stable and her used to having new horse friends.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  Anyway, she knows who I am since I've been the only human whose been around her previously, spending time getting acquainted with each other and feeding her grain besides hay.  I think I probably spoiled her that way, not knowing any better and that that probably wasn't a good idea.  Trial and error, I guess.  As far as gaining a horse's trust, I am hoping that all these big moving changes, new people, new surroundings, and my temporary absence has not confused my horse.  Trying to figure out the best approach to get back to a routine I had earlier with my horse and how to get to know her better, and she to I.  Thanks for any comments. 

It looks like I may have to re-assess my 2013 equine goals as I may not have a horse to work with. Despite 3 attempts to contact the owner of Ophelia about reserving her for my March and April lessons, I've had no response. I'm not a person who chases people around for a response to a question when their silence can be interpreted as a "no". 

It may be, Carol, that something is up in the life of Ophelia's owner that has shuffled his/her priorities. I wouldn't necessarily take silence as a "no."

You might think of asking the person at your stable who is in charge of boarders to ask the question for you. An "official" question coming from the person who handles his/her account would probably catch Ophelia's owner's attention.




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