When To End

Clinton Anderson writes, "I often get asked how long a training session should last." That’s a difficult question to answer because a training session shouldn’t be about a set length of time as much as it should be about how your horse is reacting and listening to you. Instead the question should be, ‘How do I know when to end a training session?’ I hope the tips below help.



1 Your horse has made an improvement from yesterday When you first teach a horse something, it’s a concept lesson. In the concept lesson your goal is to get the general idea of the lesson across to the horse. When you first ask a horse to do something, he won’t automatically know what to do. In fact, he’s probably going to do everything but what you want him to do. For example, when you ask the horse to back up on the ground, he’ll probably stick his head up in the air and ignore you. He might turn left, he might turn right, but the very last thing he’ll try is taking a step back. If you release the pressure when he takes a step back he’ll look for that answer again. However, if he takes a step back and you don’t release the pressure, he’ll go through that whole cycle of options (rearing, ignoring you, turning left, turning right, etc.) again. Then he’ll come back to taking a step backwards. If you miss releasing the pressure the second time, it’ll get even worse.

Every time a horse does what you want, or even acts like he’s going to do it, you’ve got to release the pressure so that he knows what the answer is. I’m so obsessed about it that when first teaching a horse something, if he even gives the impression that he’s thinking about doing what I want, I’ll release the pressure. Remember that a thought will soon turn into an action.

When the horse finally does figure out that you want him to back up, more than likely he’s going to back up with his head up in the air and his feet are going to be stiff and bracey. He’s not going to back up smoothly. That’s completely normal. You can’t expect him to understand the concept of the lesson and to back up with energy in his feet with his head and neck level all at the same time. First he has to understand the concept, and then you can build from there. You have to establish a starting point. Once the horse understands what he’s supposed to do then you can work on perfecting the lesson. But if you try to perfect the lesson before the horse understands the concept you’ll run into trouble.

After the first lesson you’ll work on perfecting the exercise. Each time you work with the horse you’ll look for a little more improvement. From that point on you won’t end a training session before the horse has shown some improvement from the day before. On the second day of practising backing up you’d expect him to back up four steps with energy in his feet. When you’d accomplished that you’d quit and move on to something else.

What you don’t want to do is get your horse softer and responding better and then keep drilling on him. If you do, you’ll just discourage him

What you don’t want to do is get your horse softer and responding better and then keep drilling on him. If you do, you’ll just discourage him. That’s hard for human beings not to do. We’re greedy creatures. When the horse is doing well, we want more. If he takes three energetic steps backwards we want to see six, and then we end up frustrating the horse because he doesn’t feel like he gets to win. So always be conscious of rewarding the horse when he’s doing well. Remember, a little try today turns into a big try tomorrow.



2 Your horse has a good attitude Only stop working your horse when he has a good attitude and is respecting you as the leader, or at the very least has a better attitude then when you started your training session. When horses first come to the ranch for training, especially if they’ve been disrespectful for a while, they get worked more than a horse that is respectful and has a good attitude. So it really comes down to this – the worse the horse’s attitude, the more he’s worked. The better his attitude, and the more he tries, the less he’s worked.

You’re telling the horse, ‘If you come out with a good attitude and try everything I ask of you, you won’t have to work as long. However, if you come out with a sorry attitude, you’ll work much harder.’ If you’re consistent with this philosophy your horse will catch on that if he has a good attitude and tries he won’t have to work as long.

Don’t take what I just said out of context or to the extreme though. When you’re working your horse you don’t want to run him out of air to the point of exhaustion, no matter how he’s behaving. If a horse runs out of air, he’ll only be concentrating on one thing – finding air. He won’t be able to think about what you’re asking him to do. So it would be pointless to keep drilling on the exercise and making his feet move. You have to let him stop and give him a chance to get his air back. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t train on him at the same time. When you’re letting him air up, desensitise him. He’s already wanting to stand still, so use it to your advantage.

The most important thing to remember is to not quit the horse before he’s using the thinking side of his brain and has a good attitude. If you quit him when he’s snarly or using the reactive side of his brain, you’ll only reinforce that behaviour in him.



3 Your horse is working well Always end a training session on a good note. If you finish when the horse is frustrated or misbehaving, that’s what he’s going to remember the next day and getting him over his problem will take twice as long. If you find that you’re in a time crunch and your horse isn’t performing well at a particular exercise, stop what you’re doing and practise an exercise you know the horse can do well. That way you’re finishing on a good note, doing something the horse knows how to do so he is relaxed and is listening to you.

Sometimes of course you’re going to have to quit your horse on a note you’re not pleased with. That will happen from time to time. To avoid that problem, before a training session ask yourself, ‘How much time do I have to train this horse today?’ Then plan the session accordingly. If you have a limited amount of time, don’t pick a subject you know your horse struggles with and you can’t get accomplished in that timeframe. Always set yourself up for success, not failure.

Tie Up Training

 Tie Up

Tie Up

Standing patiently when tied up is a fundamental part of any horse’s training. Here Jason Webb explains how to do it safelyPatience is an important thing to teach a horse. It is obviously very helpful if you are planning to take them out and about a lot but it is also important for day to day activities such as grooming, standing for the farrier etc. I tie my horses for long periods of time during their foundation training. I use a suitable tying device, halter and rope, and make sure their environment is safe. Then I leave them.

Initially they scream, shout and paw the ground, pace about and try to escape but I just ignore all that and carry on my day at the yard. The more activity the better. I lead horse’s past, I ride, I bring horses in and out of the fields etc. I only let the horse down when it is standing quietly. I repeat the process every day until when I tie them up they know there is no point in creating a fuss as it won’t change anything.

Too many times I see owners rush to attend to a tied horse that is showing signs of impatience, even if it is to chastise them. The attention becomes a game and encourages more fussing. In reality patience should be one of the easiest things to teach your horse. So long as you can block out the noise and explain to any other people at your yard what you are trying to achieve, your horse will be standing quietly before you know it. When your horse can stand patiently at home try it in a strange but safe environment and then at a show.

You will be the envy of the show ground if your horse stands quietly at the trailer while others are trying to escape, pawing, calling and causing a merry hell!

The Process

When starting to teach your horse to tie up I use a resistance tie. This works by allowing the horse to pull back but creates enough resistance that they feel pressure on their head collar. This is the safest and easiest way to teach your horse to tie up. It makes the act of pulling back for a horse uncomfortable but when they stop and take a step forward there is an instant release. A horse quickly learns the best place to be. Tying using a resistance device is preferable to any other method. Tying to a solid object can injure your horse as he struggles to get away, and tying to breakable string will only teach a horse pulling hard enough will result in release.

Apart from the resistance tie you will also need a karabiner (or double ended clip) and a 20 foot rope. The rope needs to be this long to allow the horse to try the option of pulling back for as far as it wants. If you follow this process then the rope will not need to be any longer. Once your horse learns, you can return to a normal length rope. Make sure the surface is soft and not slippery.

It is very important to teach your horse to lead before you tie them up. Once they know how to step forward from pressure on their head collar, tie them up and stand at a safe distance (two to five metres should be enough) holding the end of the rope and do something that may cause flight such as waving your arm or flapping something. If your horse starts to pull back, keep doing what you are doing until the moment they come off the pressure and take a step forward. Then walk away, pulling the rope back in to shorten it, and repeat. If they stop and don’t step off the pressure but continue to ‘lean’ back, just walk around behind them until they take a step forward. While you are doing this you can shorten the rope.

You can continue this work by introducing different objects to test their ability to yield to the pressure of the head collar and tie up safely in all scenarios. Getting them used to contact by different people and different objects is also important. I like to start with a bag on a stick. You can wrap the bag tightly to start with and as the horse gets more used to it, unwrap it so it flaps more. Allow them to sniff the object first then retreat. Next allow them to sniff and then rub the object up over their eye and down their neck. Use different objects and allow time between each for them to settle and reflect, this could be five minutes or two hours.

Make sure you work down both sides until you can’t make your horse pull any rope out. Next tie them somewhere else and repeat the lesson. Before your horse will be reliable tied up they need to follow this process and stand patiently in three different places.

The tying device used by Jason is available for £10.95 from www.australianhorsetraining.co.uk/shop