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Horse Training 101: Tips on How to Train a Horse

Horses are powerful, determined and intelligent creatures with whom one can build a strong, trusting relationship if he has the experience, skill and time necessary to devote to training. Training a horse often takes far more time and skill than training other animals, especially when compared to training other animals who have the desire to dote on your every command, but it can be very rewarding and satisfying once accomplished.

Tips for Training a Horse

One of the first and most important steps for successfully training your horse is learning your horse’s natural movements and features. In training a horse, you are not seeking to introduce brand new movements and patterns, but rather harness those natural movements and patterns they already demonstrate and use. You should understand the basic anatomy of your horse, including his bones and muscles and how they move together. Taking the time to watch your horse can help you learn how they move naturally and how they respond to commands, so that you can better use this information in training them and won’t ask your horse to do something he cannot physically do with ease.

Notice when your horse naturally performs the behaviors you wish to train him to perform on command, including what may be contributing to this behavior and how he carries it out. Again, you are trying to train your horse to do certain natural behaviors on your command, so learning what drives him into these behaviors naturally can help you command him properly. For example, training your horse to lie down can be one of the most difficult things you train your horse to do because it requires an immense amount of trust between you and your horse, but this is a natural behavior most horses will perform when they feel safe and relaxed. You may notice your horse only lies down when he is near other horses, or maybe only when he is alone in a safe space. This can help you determine when and where to train your horse to complete this behavior on command.

With your horse on a lunge rope for better control and communication, take him to a safe training location and using what you have learned, try to stimulate him to perform the desired behavior. In the case of lying down, for example, you may choose to take your horse to an area where there is soft sand, dirt or mud, and where they normally enjoy rolling, because this will require that they first lie down. Normally a horse that is about to lie down will paw the ground and then buckle his front knees. Once your horse has begun to demonstrate the desired behavior, this is the time to insert yourself into the process to form the basis for your command. Calmly walk up to your horse and talk to him with gentle, reassuring words. Your horse may stop the desired behavior, in which case you can step back slightly but continue to speaking reassuringly.

When your horse has performed the desired behavior, you can introduce the word command you would like to use, like “down” or “lie” for lying down. Continue to use physical and verbal communication to praise your horse, calmly stroking him and using soothing words to make him comfortable. You may want to physically move their body in order to bring about the full desired behavior, but this must be done gently otherwise they may feel forced and will stiffen and move away from you.

Repeat the training process until your horse responds to your command quickly and with certainty. This will take time and patience, but eventually your horse will come to understand that this is desired behavior, and he will perform it comfortably before you. Whatever occurs during a training session, make sure to end on a good note, with praise and reward, so your horse will willingly participate in training next time you ask.

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