How to Optimise Training Outcomes

I had a fabulous clinic last weekend with beautiful horses and advanced riders. On Saturday we worked on ‘give to the bit’ and ‘shoulder control’. Most of this work was done on the ground and then we transferred it to under saddle. The horses each had a two hour session – mostly conducted at walk with some trot, engaging their brains rather than their muscles. The sessions are designed to teach the horses to look for an answer to pressure – the horse feels pressure, in this case bit pressure, and finds the thing to move that releases that pressure. At the end of the session we had mentally engaged horses that were paying attention and responding quietly and calmly.

The following day I took 3 horses for trailer loading training. Two of them had done one of the sessions on Saturday and the third had not.

The first up was a big fellow with little training but he seemed to get a lot out of the previous session. He had never been on a trailer before and was bred at the agistment centre (now a 6 year old with only a few rides). After 20 minutes he was walking on, standing quietly and backing off slowly. Perfect!

Next up we had a young mare that had experienced some loading trauma and developed a habit of rearing and hitting her head while running out backwards. She had also attended the Foundation session the previous day and finished very well there. She remained calm and focused throughout the trailer training and we managed to get her walking on and off, with all her feet up to the top of the ramp, quietly and confidently without the slightest raising of her head. A great success given where she started and I doubt it would have been possible without the ‘give to the bit’ work the previous day.

Finally we had another mare whose history was unknown as she had only been with the current owner for a month. She also had experienced some loading trauma, not dissimilar from the second horse, and was described as ‘difficult’ on the ground but much better under saddle. We began at the trailer but it soon became clear that she had no idea about negative reinforcement or responding to pressure. Her emotional level was sky high and working near the trailer was escalating that further. We took her to the arena and worked on the Foundations that the other horses had learned the previous day and she ended well (with a lot of homework for her lovely new owner).

I am often called out to do Trailer Loading Training for people because their horses are ‘perfect in every way but just won’t get on the trailer’. Not loading is a symptom of bigger problems that have nothing to do with the trailer – the horse doesn’t understand the cues to go forward and backwards, remain calm and attentive and is lacking in confidence. In other words, the horse is lacking solid foundation training.

Does it take longer to start with Foundation Training? No, it takes a fraction of the time because once you and your horse understand the foundations you can train anything! What if my horse is already very experienced or older, what do I do? Whatever your horse’s age or experience level, you can always start with the Foundation work (find it all in the Kandoo Club Online Training) – your horse will reward you with confidence, calmness and a much safer ride!