Basic Horse Training:
A Natural Perspective

For basic horse training to be most effective, you’ve got to have an understanding of horse behavior and his innate nature.

Far too many trainers or riders don’t apply horse behavior in their training.

Usually we think of basic learning as those simple things such as;

  • being caught,
  •  groomed,
  • tying,
  • ready for farrier work,
  • vet work,
  • leading,
  • being clipped,
  •  and loading on a trailer.

It should also include him understanding basic riding or driving aids such as;

  • slow down or stop,
  • go,
  • back up,
  • turn left and right,
  •  control the hindquarters, and
  • control the forequarters.

If you own a horse or are going to train one, these basics are the backbone of training. Everything else is just fluff! If you can master these things, all the fancy stuff will be loads easier because of the quality of the foundation.

Imagine This Scenario

Someone, usually a beginner rider, goes out and does a rental. Usually it’s an hour, maybe more. The first half hour or so the rider is smacking the horse constantly (with anything from a rubber hose piece to a tree branch!) to get to leave the barn and continue moving (at the pace of a snail) while the horse grazes his way along the trail.

The last 10 minutes their supposed parther won’t slow down at all and is either on it’s way to running away or already is at a dead run for home. As a new rider (and even if you are experienced) this experience is both scary and frustrating, not to mention downright dangerous!

Prey Animal Point of View

The scenario above shows a mount lacking in basic training and response to the riders’ aids. He is also does not respect or trust his rider enough to respond, even though he may know what is being asked of him.

He has reverted to his innate nature.

Let’s look at this from his perspective for a minute. Someone that has no idea what they are doing flops up and slams down rudely on your back (ouch!). This person has been told to smack you repeatedly so that you’ll move forward, which you don’t very easily cause you’ve been smacked so many times it doesn’t hurt anymore and means absolutely nothing.

By the time you get your head pointed back to the barn (with yummy hay and some rest!) you figure you’ll get there as quickly as you can! That is where all your buddies are too, and you miss them! Let’s go! So then you get a going real fast (that is what the person wanted, right?) and suddenly you have a screaming, flailing, person that is scaring you to death and yanking the heck out of your mouth that has a metal bit in it.

That person up there may or many not make it back to the barn with you and you don’t care, you RUN for it because you KNOW there is safety at the barn and all that commotion up there is freaking you out! This horse has learned over time that the aids given don’t mean anything and that the rider lacks experience to follow through on reinforcing these basic horse training aids.

You Must Be Effective When Training Horses

I am not implying that you need to be harsh or mean or anything like that when teaching a horse. I use the above example for two reasons.

First, it shows that horses are herd animals and are hardwired to find safety and comfort in every situation. The barn is their most comfortable and safe place where all their buddies are!

The second reason is to help you understand that you need to be a good enough leader for your partner and that he needs to feel safe enough to follow your direction. You need to be effective enough with your mount to be understood and have built a relationship with him that he feels he can trust you. That doesn’t mean harsh!

Effective means you got your point across to him in a way he can understand.

He needs to understand what it is you are asking of him, and you have to give him a chance to figure it out and respond appropriately.

Pressure Motivates and Release Teaches

The basic horse training principle in natural horsemanship is to release pressure when he has done the RIGHT thing. If you don’t release the pressure, he won’t learn that he got the answer right.

That may mean you reward his TRY to do something right.

Use the above scenario. The horse gets smacked and smacked repeatedly and the smacking doesn’t ever hardly stop. If he tries to move forward at all, they just keep smacking. He can’t figure it out, so he figures that is just part of his life, being smacked and just tolerating it because he has no idea how to get it to stop.

It Always Goes Back to the Basics

If you want to learn how to train a horse, get real good with your basics. Teach him to catch you, to load himself on a trailer, to stand quietly for the vet and farrier, and to stay with you leading so well you can walk, trot, and canter from the ground even without a rope.

When riding get your cues so subtle that he follows the energy in your body to change gaits

Groundwork and a Natural Approach

Use basic groundwork first. I am a huge fan of natural horse training because it uses the nature of how the horse thinks to maximize results. Natural horsemanship considers his herd mentality and unique personality type.

Natural basic horse training is to use approach and retreat with the horse in all that you do to get him comfortable with new experiences and things. It also means that you apply pressure in stages and release when you get a positive response. It is simple and basic, but it isn’t always easy to follow through properly as timing is critical.

Ways to Learn and Trainers to Try

If you want to learn more, visit my horse training tips page. If you want to get deeper into understanding your partner in the way I described try Pat Parelli Horse Training, or other famous horse trainers such as John Lyons. Many of these natural horsemanship trainers have home study courses, books, training DVD’s as well as clinics available to help you master basics.

Check out these other articles that are related to basic horse training:

Clicker Training for Horses -This positive based training technique can transform the results you get while training horses. Check it out!

Horse Training School -Want to learn more about basic horse training? You might want to consider attending a horse training school. You can earn a degree in the subject you love, horses!

Using Voice Commands- Basic voice use as it applies to horses.

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