Why your horse isn’t learning as fast as they should
By April Reeves
I have a herd of 10 horses. No matter how long I leave them, I can go out into the 80 acres, catch any one of them (most will come without a halter) and start off exactly where I left their training, regardless of how long that was. How does that happen?
This is the value of consistency. Not the type where you take a lesson then ride the way you always do the next day. No. This is the type where you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to ask at least one new thing and apply it every time I need to in a consistent manner until my horse understands the question.”
We don’t realize how damaging it is to the horse when we change the question. Example: you were taught how to back up your horse, but today, he does not want to back up and it’s been a few months since you asked for it. So you do what you know to get him to back up, but he hesitates and stalls out, so you try another method, same zero results, then you try something else while you get more aggressive and by this time, your horse is hyper anxious and tense and the entire lesson is lost.
You have just asked him more than one question and there is no way you will get any result you will like. Let’s use the backup as an example.
Posted in Colt Starting, English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Western training answers
Tagged April Reeves, backing up, consistency, herd, horse training, lesson, rhythmic pressure, show ring, trainer
Question: I was watching your lesson last Saturday (I was the one wearing the yellow jacket) and was fascinated by your explanation of energy work. Thank you for letting me watch! My question is, when the lady couldn’t get her horse to move out, can you explain again why that was happening? I missed it, and I’m sure that was the most important part! When are you back at Bowden again? So glad you moved here!
Answer from April Reeves: Hi yellow jacket: yes, I remember you (hard to miss actually!). Feel free to audit any lesson (unless my client asks otherwise).
Energy surrounds all living things every second of our lives. Even rocks have energy levels. Horses are highly tuned to energy. We all know this by the reaction our horses have to our emotions each time we approach them, yet we routinely disregard this and blame our horse for the reactions he/she has to us.
After having received and answered questions on this blog for some time now, a recurring theme keeps popping up.
Riders of all disciplines seem to get to a certain level but never seem to be able to get past it. That’s when the questions come forth, and the frustration begins. People intuitively know, even if they don’t consciously know, that they are missing a very integral part of the “equine journey”.
It’s all fine to learn the “mechanics” of riding. We learn how to sit so that we and the horse are more comfortable and safe. We learn how to use our hands and legs to ask the horse how to do a specific task – but we really don’t feel, at a deeper level, what that truly is – to the horse. And so begins our feeling of being “stuck” and asking questions.
We brush our horses, feed them, kiss them goodnight or goodbye, and the second we step away, we move right back into our outer world beyond the horse. But our whole intention, if we search higher, of having a horse in the first place, is to connect very deeply with another spirit. Not another human or animal. Another spirit. And to retain that connection while away from them. This does not mean that you “think” about the horse. It means you bring forward “that” which you carry between you and your horse into all the other aspects of your life. Things like, patience, understanding, grounding, centeredness, unflappable and unshakeable – emotionally and ego free.
Question from New Zealand: I have been working through your site for answers to a lot of questions :-) and have found it invaluable as I work with my wild caught mare who is now 7 yrs old. She was only broken in at 5 and then we just got her home and a couple of months later she broke her foot. So after a year out with that I’m starting her all over again. She was trained by Trisha Wren who’s methods are similar to your own.
BUT the issue is with her little paddock mate. A warmblood 3yr old, almost 4yr filly (Pipsqueak) who each time I take Charity away from her gallops and bucks around her paddock. The last time she wasn’t even out of site but took off around her paddock and chest crashed a gate twice. The 3rd time she knocked it off it’s hinges. Very luck for us she didn’t cut herself but it must have bruised. Many times I thought she was going to jump the gate. Now she hasn’t always been like this.
Comment from Horse Enthusiast writes: I knew this trainer who had a really angry paint filly- she was vicious when the owner gave her to him for nothing- and he managed to train her enough that she was easy to handle which was a big accomplishment considering if you showed up with a halter she would run you down, but she still pulled back when tied and riding she would blow up really badly on occasion, or at least that was the state she was at when I left…
I don’t know her history or how she’s doing now as I haven’t seen her since spring… Anyway he wasn’t my ideal trainer as he was the “old” cowboy type and would run the snot out of a bronc horse, no matter what age. (this filly was only three and he was cantering and loping her constantly and working her really hard).
But the trick he used to get this filly to accept the bit, because she was terrible of course, was to turn her out with the bridle. (no reins)
Would you ever even consider this in the most dire situation or would you just give up and go bitless? My big fear at the time was that she would catch the ring of the snaffle on a part of the fence or something and rip her mouth apart in a panic, but luckily she didn’t but she actually became easier to bit and was less resistant to it after a week or so. But still, I think that’s too risky…
Just curious :)
Answer from April Reeves: There are many ways to ask a horse to accept a bit, and although many of those ways end up with a horse that will “take” a bit, the question remains, “Is there a better way?” I have had to work with some of the toughest of bitters, and have barely had as much as a fight or future problem.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Western training answers
Tagged April Reeves, Bit, bitting, Bridling, Cowboy, Filly, Horse Trainer, horse training, Lope
Question: I have a four year old Morgan who was doing terrific in her training and then I hurt my back. I couldn’t ride, had her trainer working with her and an experienced rider exercising her. I had just started to get back to walking on her in early August when she started pinning her ears for everyone who got on her back and refusing to move forward. We had her saddles checked by a certified saddle fitter, had the vet come out and check her (she’s also a chiro/accupuncture expert) and we let her rest for over two weeks. I’ve stayed off her; only her trainer works with her but she still will sometimes put her ears back or kick out when she’s asked to move forward into trot. It’s now mid-October–what haven’t we thought of to solve this? She was doing so well all of last year and had moved into learning to canter before this started!
Answer from April Reeves: Hi SallyAnne. This is a common problem but not easily solved at this stage. There may be several things going on here to build this mare up to this point so I will go over them individually.
Question: Hi April, I have a really big problem that’s getting worse. My horse stalls out after every fence. We jump one fence and he just quits. I can get him moving again but he just keeps doing this over and over. I can go over one fence and he does it okay but he won’t do a line of them. Help me please! My instructor doesn’t know what’s wrong with him either. Is he sick?
Answer from April Reeves: No Angela, he’s not likely sick. He’s likely trained to do that, and you trained him. I know what you’re thinking right now “Gosh, no April, I’ve never trained him for that!’ but we unconsciously train our horses to do many things we don’t want them to do.
This is a typical scenario when you first learn about jumping. You aim at a jump, pray the horse will keep going, and then immediately stop the horse after you go over the fence and take a look at your accomplishment. If that isn’t training a horse to stop after every fence I don’t know what is!
Posted in English Riding answers, Hunter/Jumper
Tagged counter canter, english riding, Equine Behavior & Problems, Gallop, horse forward, horse training, hunter, Jump, Jumper, jumping, Lead Changes, Rein back, Stride