Setting Your Horse Up for Success

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Let's make things easier, not harder.
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Let's make things easier, not harder.

An Easier Way to Train

If I'm shooting hoops and want a guaranteed basket, I'll hold the ball directly over the basket and let go.  If I want to shoot fish in a barrel, I'll put a lot of big fish in a small barrel.  In that same way, when training a horse, I'll do my best to set him up for success.   

Just as you wouldn't try to push over a sumo wrestler when his feet are planted, weight spread evenly, (you'd get him up on tippy-toes and give his shoulder a quick shove), I don't want to be asking a horse to back up (or step sideways or slow down) when his feet are spayed, his belly dropped and he's calling to his buddies.  I say to myself, "Self, what does a horse feel like when it's backing like a champ?"  And then I'll do what it takes to position his body in just that way before I even ask for that back up.  I'll put energy in the horse (maybe with a bunch of quick turns and lope departures), I'll raise his back and bring those back feet in closer to his front feet (by asking for a bunch of "turns on the forehand," (aka hip "disengagements") -- and I'll get that neck and chin soft, soft, soft on the bridle (maybe by doing 20 minutes of serpentines).  Then... then I'll work on my back ups.    

Example:  The predominant method I use to teach the shoulders to move over is to first ask the horse to pivot his back legs around a shoulder (to "disengage").  When we do this, he transfers weight back, away from the front feet and brings his back legs a bit closer to the front legs (lifting his mid-section and making him more maneuverable).  Also, we get him a bit off balance, making it easier to almost force the horse to shift left or right. If we ask him to move the shoulders before the disengagement, it's like trying to move dead weight.  But, if we first stack the deck in our favor by positioning the horse as described, we've got a greater shot at success.  (Naturally, once the horse gets the idea, we can forgo the "set up" process and simply cue him.)  In this example, I'd ask the horse to neatly pivot his back legs around his front legs, move him forward a step, and then before he loses impulsion, I'd ask him to nudge those shoulders over.  I'd repeat just this, toying at it (altering my timing of cues, the angle and pressure with which I hold the reins and adding/subtracting impulsion) until I felt him "unlock" those front legs.  I do my best to put his body in a position conducive to the motion I'm looking for ("step sideways with your shoulder") and only THEN ask for the sideways movement. 

In a nutshell:  Start concentrating primarily on the setup, not so much the actual execution. 

* The preceding was inspired by the book "Horse Tricks," Chapter 11, "To Sit Up."  It is not an exact extraction.  "Horse Tricks" offers 44 tricks a horse might be taught plus a quick and easy fix for horses that bite.  Click here to purchase "Horse Tricks" or to read more

If you're looking to train or re-train your horse on the basics, as generally discussed above, check out my " What I'd Teach Your Horse."  See below for info and links.
John Lyons (L) and Keith Hosman, Parachute, Colorado
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John Lyons (L) and Keith Hosman, Parachute, Colorado

Keith Hosman, Utopia, TX  USA

John Lyons Certified Trainer Keith Hosman lives near San Antonio, Texas and divides his time between writing how-to training materials and conducting training clinics in most of these United States as well as in Germany and the Czech Republic.
What I'd Teach Your Horse Training & Re-Training the Basics - by Keith Hosman, Certifed John Lyons Trainer
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What I'd Teach Your Horse Training & Re-Training the Basics - by Keith Hosman, Certifed John Lyons Trainer

Basic Training

What I'd Teach Your Horse
Training & Re-Training the Basics


Question: "I just bought a horse. What do I do now?"
Answer: "Buy my book, 'What I'd Teach Your Horse.'" 

If you broke your horse to saddle and rode it for the first time today, this book is where you'd start tomorrow. Likewise, if you have an older horse that needs re-training, you'd start here. 

" What I'd Teach Your Horse" is a roadmap to building the foundation every horse needs, regardless of age, breed or background, regardless the type of riding for which it will eventually be used.  Afterwards, when your horse knows this book back to front, go train for barrels, roping, eventing, jumping or dressage. But today, basics are basics. 

By  Keith Hosman, a John Lyons Certified Trainer and Gadabout Town  

Available for all major e-reading devices and in paperback. Get the paperback here on eBay - shipped directly to your home by me - the book's author!  

Click here to get more information and purchase "What I'd Teach Your Horse"
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