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Horsemanship Journal is a supplement to the award winning title Western Horse UK. Launched in 2013, it seeks to bring together inspiring and educational articles from horsemen and women the world over. With no bias towards one method or another, Horsemanship Journal features experts from many disciplines and schools of thought.

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Give and Take

BridlelessBefore getting started in anything technical it is vitally important that you learn the art of give and take, writes Tina Kaven.

In my last article I talked about the thought processes behind training, riding, showing and further education. Now, I’d like to talk about my approach, theory and methodology.

This is simply my way, you can take what you want and leave what you don’t like! First and foremost, I work off of a ‘reward based system,’ verses a programme based upon fear. This is important because, as we discussed previously, you have to know where you are going before you can lead the way in an effective manner, and establish a relationship based upon trust. Now for the breakdown of how this works in the programme.

I am starting with the overview before we get into details. I call it the ‘take and release.’ This terminology refers to the method of utilising the reward based system. The idea is that you give the ‘take’ (or cue) and release as soon as you achieve the response you require. This way you reward the appropriate behaviour. What exactly is the release? It is simply stopping the cue at the very moment that the horse responds, thereby releasing the horse. Ultimately, what a horse wants is no different than what we humans want. We desire to do things right, stay out of trouble and learn that we are OK - no, better still, that we are good and appreciated for who we are and the efforts we make.

This is a widely misunderstood method. As a general rule riders do not release their horse at the appropriate time, which costs dearly and creates a great deal of misunderstanding, mistrust and frustration for both parties. Horses are intelligent regardless of what the public as a whole (and sometimes riders) believe. The issue is that riders do not reward/release the horse at the appropriate moments and therefore miss the opportunity for the horse to understand and grasp correct and incorrect behaviours.

I use the terms ‘take’ and ‘release’ because when I am working with others my goal is to help people learn the proper timing by highlighting to them the exact moment of opportunity. When we miss that opportunity we miss the chance to reward the horse and consequently train the horse to misbehave or to respond to our cues incorrectly. In addition, when we don’t give the release, the horse learns that there is nothing that they can do right, creating the atmosphere of frustration.

Further down the line the horse will give up his desire to please the rider and, as frustration increases, it results in many, many good, high quality horses being missed or dumped. The more clarity there is in the boundaries, the more intelligent and capable the horse will be (and appear to be). This changes the entire situation and I should add that the better rider and trainer you will feel and become. In addition, the confidence of both horse and rider is boosted tenfold! In the next few months I will dissect the actual application of all of the aids (voice, seat, leg, and hand) while keeping in mind that the ‘take and release’ is a requirement of success.

Tina Kaven is a multiple World Champion in western events. Learn more at www.kavenranch.com

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