Hi Smooth riders all. Goran Bockman here to help you out.
Today I’ll be talking about how to correctly start your Saddle Horse under saddle.
I will walk you through the process of starting off at the right foot, so you will be able to train him right, right from the start .
Create a training plan
A training plan is a great tool to help you progress in an orderly manner. That said, you created it and you can, of course, change your plan as needed.
Break down every step forward into many small steps.
Flexibility is crucial.
You will find, you often need to adapt your plan, to a flora of problems that arise, in the course of the training.
An example, you’re starting to teach the horse to lunge, but it turns out, he is scared of the lunge line. Perhaps he sees before him a flying Dragon.
You need to take a step back and desensitize your horse to the line (or Dragon as the case may be).
Fill every step forward with intent and consistency!
Every step in the training should be a stepping stone for the next step in the progression.
So, for instance, you begin to establish you leadership by briskly walking up to the horse, with your right hand raised.
In response your horse backs up. The very millisecond he starts to move backwards you say “back up”. Say it with authority, but not in an angry voice.
What happened there?
1. You started to assert yourself as his leader, and
2. you established a word cue that you’ll always use, when you want him to back up!
Intent and consistency!
Establish your leadership
Make sure your horse is very clear on who the leader is. To accomplish this, you need to know it very well too.
Also ensure that what ever you planned, actually happens.
Not just sometimes but ALL the time! Let things take time. Stay patient and positive at all times. And yes LOVE him, but keep it firm.
Always have a Mini-plan
Part of your plan must be to have a mini-plan, for all you are doing. For every moment of training.
Read that again please and never lose sight of it. Always have a plan!
Always have what? That’s right folks à plan for every step!
Everything you do from now on is training, to the horse.
You can train it to respect and obey you, or to disrespect and disobey you. The best relationship is built on mutual respect and trust.
If the horse fails to obey you, never ever leave it there!
Why? Because that would be teaching it disobedience!
A happy horse is key! Below is an image of a key, ie a happy horse.
Introducing Friða, an Icelandic mare, one month into the training here.
Firmness and consistency, then, are keys to success.
The best leader of a herd is kind but firm and will never tolerate disobedience.
Kindness and rewards are equally important.
Keeping your horse happy and trustful of you must be at the forefront of everything you do.
Rewards encourage learning
So be quick to reward, if not with treats, as I prefer to do, then with an intensely happy praising voice.
Gently rubbing the horse’s sweetspots, at the same time, makes it all the more pleasurable.
Talk to him/her at all times
Talking to your horse helps to build trust and obedience, in him. It also, generally, calms him or her, and makes it less likely to spook.
We have now set the right framework. Following this framework will make learning easy and pleasant and, not least important, safe.
Firm and Consistent, but Kind and Encouraging; those are the indispensable corner-words of true Horsemanship.
OK so here’s my plan for
Week 1/ Day 1
Establish your leadership. From today your horse will become your happy and willing servant, and best friend too!
Here’s how I do it. I’m now assuming the horse is raw, but used to being around people.
Fetching the horse may be a challenge
First I fetch him in the pasture. Sounds straightforward right? Mmm, it may or may not be. Horses have an uncanny way of sensing that something, possibly life threatening, is afoot.
Assuming this is our first meeting I approach him at a normal pace. I confidently walk right into his space. No pussyfooting.
He doesn’t know me yet so will likely back away. Good, he should. But I also want to establish our friendship, right away, so I’ve brought some treats for him.
Tease his interest
If he’s (this imaginary horse is a He) reluctant to take it at first, I would give some to the other horses, just to tease his interest. Nope didn’t work. So I walk around him, treat in hand.
Patience and calm wins the day
Eventually he will succumb to the demands of his palate, and accept the offering. Let it take the time it takes.
On occasion, I’ve followed a horse for over an hour, just keeping up the smalltalk.
Finally, he will decide that I’m not out to eat him, or even beat him, but to treat him.
See there, high level horsey poetry lol.
Slip on halter as horse eats
As he was taking his treat I deftly slipped the halter onto his head. Give him some more, to calm any upset nerves. Keep talking in a low and soothing voice.
I’m assuming now that the horse has been led before.
So some treats, at suitable intervals, will keep him following me.
Stop and stay
From time to time I stop him. The word cue I use is “stop”, and I combine that with a visual cue. Normally I lift the lead rope as cue and stomp my foot to clarify.
Having given the treat, I face the horse and tell him “stay”. I back away a few steps.
If he moves I twirl the lead rope saying “back up” and again “stay”. When he obeys, lots of praise and more treats.
What is my intention?
What’s my intention with this training (yep basic training going on) do you think? Give it some thought please. I’ll be waiting right here.
That’s right! It’s about taking control of the horses movements! Replacing your horse’s plans with your plans.
This concludes day 1 of week 1. Your horse will have lots to think about, so when your happy with it, call it a day. Make sure you end on a happy note.
In the next article I’ll cover the rest of first week training, and further, so stay tuned folks.
Please leave your questions and other comments below.