Training Young Horses

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Training Young Horses

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    12-02-2012, 01:49 PM
Smile Training Young Horses

Hey! I have a just-turned 3 year old draft-cross mare. I've raised her since she was 8 months old. She's coming along really well and I've just started to trot on her. We've been taking things slowly because I understand that draft crosses take longer to mature. She's getting better with me on her and becoming more confident.

My questions:

How do you teach a horse to be more balanced?

How do you teach a horse to bend a little at turns?

Trotting counter-clockwise, she moves well considering how new she is to it. Trotting clockwise, however, she keeps her neck and head pointing out a little in the corners. When I wiggle the reins just a smidge to straighten her neck, she just turns instead... When I do the same thing counter-clockwise, she bends slightly with the turn. I don't know how to get her out of the small "habit," for lack of a better word.
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    12-02-2012, 05:15 PM
Super Moderator
First of all "Welcome to the Horse Forum'.

Your problem is very common when a rider uses mostly reins for control and not enough leg for 'shape' and to teach correctness and balance.

You are trying to 'hold' her out with your outside rein. This causes a horse drop its inside shoulder. You should be 'pushing' her out with your inside leg instead.

You need to start teaching 'leg yielding' exercises to get her centered between your reins and between your legs.

You also need to start using more outside leg and less inside rein when going to the left. If you do not, she will start drifting out and over-bending going left as well as being stiff and dropping a shoulder going to the right.

Your reins ONLY control the direction the horse's head points. A horses does not have to follow its head. It is your job to teach him to. Horses follow their shoulders. So the thing you need to be teaching now, is shoulder and body control.
    12-02-2012, 05:24 PM
Nope, I actually use incredibly loose reins with her and yet she still keeps her head/neck closer to the outside when we go clockwise. My older horse is horrible with loose rein (he ignores all possible leg yields. He's a stubborn, set-in-his-ways 33 year old haha) so that's why I'm working so hard with my young one so move more with the use of my legs than the reins.

I'll use my inside leg to try to make her bend when going counter-clockwise while using an indirect outside leg, but for some reason she just doesn't do it but does it well in the other direction. One person said that it could be that she's "left-handed."

I've tried trotting her in large to medium sized circles but she feels stiff in that one direction no matter how loose the reins are and despite my leg yields.
    12-02-2012, 05:36 PM
Super Moderator
You may have to reinforce with a crop or a spur. When you ask a horse to move out or over, you cannot quit until the horse gives at least a little bit of the right response. If you do quit, you are only teaching him to ignore your aids.

If nothing else, teach him to move his hip over from the ground and then while standing still. Teaching a horse to disengage his hind quarters is a start for teaching lateral response to legs.

I would also teach this horse to 'give me his head'. This is very similar to teaching a 'one rein stop'. You ask for a horse's head and you use NO leg at all. You just let the horse go around and around until the horse stops and gives himself slack. Then and only then you let the horse straighten out.

This lateral flexion, disengagement and the yielding of his face to you will give you a starting place. It will soon teach him to yield when going forward.
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    12-02-2012, 06:49 PM
Originally Posted by sportschick068    
We've been taking things slowly because I understand that draft crosses take longer to mature.
A common belief, but NO horse is mature through the back & joints until around 7yo, so I would be doing no actual 'work'(sitting/walking for a few mins here & there is likely fine if you're not too heavy) on the back of a 3yo. Also I'd be doing little circle work or other high impact stuff off her back for a while yet too.
    12-02-2012, 11:20 PM
Ok :) I have a crop (it's broken and doesn't have the wide part that makes contact with the horse) that I gently tap her with, if needed, and she responds. Sometimes if I tap her lightly on her inside shoulder, she'll bring her head toward the inside at a corner, but not always. Like I said, she's still pretty new at it all so I'm not expecting her to be an expert within a few months. I'm moving slowly as to avoid any future harm to her.

At a stand still, I'll put pressure on the reins/pull her head slightly toward my toe, one side at a time, and she'll end up putting slack in the reins by bending around and touching my foot with her muzzle.

Loosie, I've been told that most horses are mature around 5 or so and draft crosses around 7 or so... I hear something different from everyone haha. That's why I'm always confused about the extent to which I train her - everyone has their own opinions and knowledge... As of yet, I only trot her for 5 minutes in the ring after walking/lunging her for a bit as a good warm-up. I don't go crazy at all with her. I'm actually really hesitant, slow-moving, and low-impact with her training. She's still coming along really well though - she's incredibly smart... And no, I don't weigh that much that it would cause any harm or discomfort on her back.
    12-03-2012, 01:24 AM
Yep, no worries. You might like to look at Dr Deb Bennett's research then. She's a paleontologist but has studied equine development & skeletons pretty extensively.
    12-03-2012, 01:29 PM
Oh! And another question :)

I lunge my horse frequently and she's good at it. She knows voice commands and all. In the round pen, I don't use the lunge rope. When I ask her to turn, trot, walk, or canter, she does it - both directions. Sometimes I don't have access to the round pen though because someone is either using it or its a smidge muddy from a previous rain. When I ask her to canter while on the lunge rope, she speeds up because she knows what to do but I guess doesn't have the proper balance to canter in a somewhat small circle while being attached to a rope.

Is there any way to work on this and improve her balance enough to eventually canter on the lunge line?

I'll go to one side of a ring (it's oval shaped) so that she has the fence for part of the circle as an aid. When she's along the fence, she'll canter a few strides but then when she is away from the fence, she goes out a tiny bit too far, feels some pressure on the lunge line, and drops to a trot...
    12-03-2012, 01:34 PM
^^ question for anyone to answer :)
    12-03-2012, 03:48 PM
Super Moderator
If a horse does not longe on a rope out in the open (no fences), it is not trained to longe. Longing in a round-pen or with any fence that becomes the the barrier or perimeter to the horse only teaches it to follow the fence. It is really not trained to longe at all.

We teach a horse to longe out in the open like I did for the 30 or so years that I taught them to longe before I had a round pen. When I started teaching horses to longe, the only round pens that even existed were about 20 feet in diameter and were only used for 1st rides.

Horses only 'pull' on you if you let them. It takes two to tango -- so to speak.

We teach horses to work on a rope with slack in it from the very first time we ask them to move forward around us in a circle. I'll start out with about 8 or 10 feet of line using only a stiff rope halter. They already know that a 'smooch' means to move -- and move now! They have already been taught to move over with a light touch and a smooch. Later, it will only take a smooch and the tinyist bit of body language to have a horse step over for saddling, grooming, etc. They will already know that when I am in front of them and step toward them and smooch, that they are supposed to back up. They will all move either shoulder over or either hip over if I just speak to them and exhibit the body language that tells them where to move.

I teach them that when I hold one hand (with the rope) out in front of them and my other hand raised behind them and smooch, they should move forward. Think of it like a horse standing there with several doors surrounding it. There is a front door, a back door and a door at each hip and shoulder. When a horse has been told to "Stand!" or "Whoa!", all of the doors are closed. The horse is scolded for moving any foot anywhere. This is how we teach horses to stand still when we saddle or mount or doctor them.

When the front door is open -- like when you want a horse to longe forward and indicate so by holding your hand out in front of the horse -- and you smooch, an obedient horse will step forward. I just have to raise by hand that is behind the horse and smooch and any horse I deem 'ready to longe' will step forward. If he pulls or goes faster than I want, I DO NOT say "Whoa!" but I pull hard and pull him around. This will make him stop and face me. Then, I indicate again for him to go forward and smooch. I seldom have to re-start a horse more than 2 or 3 times and he figures out to go slow and to not pull.

When I want to reverse him (which I do frequently), I pull him into a stop, change hands on the line, and he quickly learns to go the other direction. Again, I just raise the hand behind him and smooch to tell him to go.

When he walks obediently, I ask him to jog on the line. The line still will not be over 10 or 12 feet long. When he jogs nicely, stops and reverses nicely on that short rope, I let him out farther and farther until a few days later he is walking and trotting on a 25 foot rope. The only voice commands I use are the 'smooch' to move and to move faster and "Easy" to slow down. I do not use "Whoa" or stop or any other voice commands. When I want one to stop, I pull hard and pull the horse around to face me. After a few of these, a tiny 'tug' on the line will stop a horse. The horse is more than willing to keep a little slack in the line. None of them pull after a few hard 'pull-around' stops. If I say "Easy" and the horse does not slow (like from a jog to a walk), I give a tug and then immediately smooch (to keep him from stopping) and they soon figure out that 'easy' means 'slow down -- now'.

When a horse does this correctly (anywhere from 4 days to a week) it is ready to lope/canter on a loose line out in the open. About all of them just speed up to a lope on a loose line when I smooch at them while they are trotting willingly. A horse will become as obedient and precise as their handler is consistent and demanding.

When I used to seriously train jumping prospects, I could take a horse through a complicated course over 8 or 10 different jumps on a longe line. I could walk or run with a horse and it stayed the exact same distance from me no matter where I was. I would walk forward and they just stayed in perfect relationship to where I was. When I headed one to a jump (some over 5 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide), they willingly went over them. I never had to use a whip (pretty difficult under these circumstances) and seldom had a run-out or refusal. [They were usually my fault for not heading a horse straight or directly at a ump.] Some of the jumps I used were only 6 to 8 feet wide. I did this only for the sake of obedience. Many of my jumps were completely solid.

I could do the exact same thing with trail obstacles. They would negotiate a narrow bridge, a water filled ditch or anything else I wanted them to carefully but obediently go over or through.

It is all a matter of communicating with a horse in a way horses understand and being 100% consistent. It is a matter of always thinking that a horse is only as well-trained as the worst performance or behavior that you accept. You get lax or sloppy or less demanding and they instantly get sloppy and less responsive and obedient. It is just how it works.

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