Tuesday, January 31

Compliant vs Trained

What is the definition of a trained horse? To me, a well trained horse will do his job for any level rider or handler capable of asking for it. He needs to know what the job is and perform it when asked. The rider shouldn't have to do a lot of holding, tickling, squeezing, begging, clucking, or smacking.
How well trained is your horse? Are you the only one who can get him to accomplish certain things? If the average user (with an appropriate skill level for your horse) can't get close to the same performance you can from your horse, you may be guilty of just getting him to do things rather than training.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we teach our horses to do things. Because of our impatient nature, it's easy to get ahead of the program and push to the more advanced (more fun!) steps. But what does this do to our horse? If they are not confident with each increasingly difficult step, they will never be independant in it. If we let our impatience get in the way of our training, we really shoot ourself in the foot. Because as each stage comes along we are holding, helping, and asking our horse more and more. This limits us, because we can only help so much. If we want our horse to improve, we have to train their mind and body to accomplish the task when we ask for it.. not when we manipulate their body into doing it.  It's easy to just get-them-to do things rather than teaching them how to accomplish them in response to a cue.

When you ride  next, take the time to pay attention to your horse. Do you get responses to your cues? Or is getting advanced maneuvers more like trying to load a great dane into a lifted pickup? If the latter is the case, maybe it's time to slow down and go back to basics. Find the holes in your horses training. Break each maneuver down to it's most basic element and build up from there only as fast as your horse can go. Do not move onto the next step until your horse can reliably respond to the cue for the step you are currently on. If you are interested in a detailed example, Please visit this page, where he talks about getting control of the hindquarters.


  1. I just found your blog and love it! And this is so true. I have been working with my horse on a number of problems and I started to whine to my trainer about how it was all my fault and there's no way my horse could go forward because I just wasn't riding her right. Her response was that my riding wasn't *that* bad and that my horse needs to learn to go forward despite my (insert fault here...leaning, clutching..whatever). My first trainer got the horse to work brilliantly for her, but wasn't able to get her to work for me. Good training (IMO) is getting that compliance, even if the rider is different.

    1. Thanks for reading, Mona. I agree, a good trainer will work with the horse so that the owner can enjoy it. When I'm working with a training horse, I try to use cues and have the expectations that the owner will have when working with the horse. It doesn't matter if I can do all sorts of cool stuff, if the owner of the horse can't enjoy it, I haven't done my job correctly. It's a tricky balance between expecting the horse to do what they're told and trying to be a good and fair rider. Good thing horses are so forgiving!

  2. I also just saw that we're both in Washington! I ride in Woodinville but I used to live in Auburn and I think I may have driven by your farm before!

  3. Well it's a small world! What kind of riding do you do? Maybe we'll bump into each other some day!