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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

‘Ask with lightness, encourage without forcing, correct with softness’

30 60 90 Days Training
Abuse NeglectRehab Part 1
Abuse NeglectRehab Part 2
Aids & Cues What are they
Assessment Behavior
Are all horses trainable
Be safer use a Dummy
Body Language Understand
Behavior Retraining Tips
Behavior Solving Issues
Buying first Horse Guide
Buying Training Older Hor
Buying a Horse Part 2
Buying a Horse Mismatched
Buying a Horse Selecting
CalmingTrg 1 sided horses
Communicating with Horses
Establishing Leadership
Exercises Warm Up
Flexion Lateral
Flexion Proper Training
Flexion Vertical
Foundation GroundTraining
Foundation Mounted
How Horses Learn
Liability Release
Motivating HorsesandMules
Natural Survival Instinct
OTTB Re Education
Overcoming riding fear
Saddle Fitting
Selecting A Trainer
Soft Inside Light Outside
Spurs How to Use them
Teaching Strategy
TRAINING Ask Properly
Training Logical Cycles
TrainingGreenRarely Handl
Train Outside the Box
Training Principles/Learn
Training Process
Training Pyramid Natural
Transfer GroundworkSaddle
Turning and Neck Reining
Winter Training Workouts

Behavior and Learning Assessment

Handling, training and/or riding equine should all begin with an evaluation!  Who the horse is, what the horse knows and what the horse needs?  Really the evaluation consists of the identification, analysis, recording of our horse’s behavior patterns and best learning style will advance our relationship with our horse.  


This process is absolutely necessary and far too many people do not take advantage of this necessary process.  Understanding how horses behave, learn and think is essential to development of a training program that is tailor-made to the individual horse. Behavior and training patterns are guidelines that should be followed but should also be flexible. The individual nature of the horse’s personality, combined with his individual life experience, will often alter his behavior and learning patterns.  These patterns are established by instincts, genetic makeup, and environment. We are not in total control of these patterns but to some degree we can help or hinder the nature direction they go in. These patterns are set at an early age, but I believe we can affect how the patterns develop if we are aware of what they are and how we can use them in our daily handling and training. Our program should be flexible enough that we can customize it for each individual horse.

Behavior patterns

A horse’s behavior patterns are based on his natural instincts for survival and his ability to process information.  Factors such as physical or mental trauma, chronic hunger or neglect can seriously affect a horse’s behavior patterns. A horse is a prey animal that uses flight as his primary survival mechanism; horses are defensive by nature. The horse’s lack of desire for confrontation tells us that he does not deal well with stress. He would rather run now and think later.  These characters at any point in a horse's life are influenced by:

  • Genetic [hereditary] make up

  • Effects of past experience

  • Effects of present circumstances

Learning patterns

Are established through the environment a horse lives in. This is where the quality and quantity of handling or training early in his life will directly affect how much a horse learns later on. The herd establishes these learning patterns initially and they are continually developing as a horse matures. When we train the horse, we can use the patterns that have been established. By understanding what motivates the horse to act the way he does, we can change his behavior by motivating him in different ways.


Profiling – Why?

Identifying your horses Behavior and Learning Patterns will help determining your horse’s best learning style!  Having a horse specific implementation plan supported with a training style specifically for each horse will advance training enormously in a positive way.  Far too many people do not take advantage of this simple social learning theory.  Whenever I start working with a new horse, I am never sure what I’m faced with. In order to make my training time with that particular horse more efficient, I need to know more about his Behavior and Learning Patterns.  Several factors influence how teachable a horse might be. I use the first session to help me develop an individual profile for the horse. In order to be accurate I have to look at all information that’s available about this horse, including age, breed, past experience, and the type of home he comes from. The owner’s personality will help me learn more. If the owner is timid, aggressive, or unsure of what he wants, this will help me understand if the horse has been over-handled, allowed to get away with things, or left to his own devices. When creating a profile I remind myself that the horse’s genetic makeup is only half of the equation; the other half is the horse’s environment.  You could take an exceptionally well bred horse and put him in a neglectful or abusive environment and he will never reach his potential because he has not had the opportunity to do so. On the flip side, you could have a nondescript grade horse and put him in a supportive, nurturing, environment and he may develop beyond what was ever expected of him because he was encouraged and allowed to realize his potential.


When profiling a horse I use a triad of exercises and study what he knows or does not know, how he learns and how he is behaving.  I want to see if he is confident, scared, dominant, submissive, aloof, friendly, , or running in circles trying to escape. Is he distracted or paying attention to me? This will help me to roughly establish his level of self confidence or lack thereof, and give me a basic understanding of his threshold for stress and how he responds to stress.  Finding himself in a strange enclosed environment with a strange handler can be very stressful for a young inexperienced horse. How the older horse responds may indicate poor past training or the anticipation of being worked a certain way.  Next, I want to see how the horse behaves when I start to apply pressure. Does he get faster, slower, more distracted, or more attentive? Does he get more expressive in his movements by kicking, rearing, or bucking? This information will help me judge the horse’s sensitivity levels and give me an idea about his desire for authority or need for leadership.  By controlling the horse’s movement I can also get an idea about his willingness to learn. Is he a confident horse that just wants to please, a scared horse that just doesn’t want to be hurt, or a princess that just wants her own way? These are just three examples of how a profile will contribute to personalizing my  approach to working with a particular horse. There are endless combinations of personality traits that if left unaddressed will affect the progress of the training.

Our philosophy, approach and technique

Our horses' emotional, mental and physical abilities are impacted by its behavior and learning patterns this can work either in our favor or against us: it all depends if we have conducted a Behavior Learning Analysis, how well we understand their needs and instincts and how skillfully we adapt these traits our philosophy, approach and technique.  Our horses' emotional, mental and physical abilities are impacted by its behavior and learning patterns this can work either in our favor or against us: it all depends on how well we understand their needs and instincts, and how skillfully we adapt these traits to our own training goals.  The horse's basic nature dictates both the things he will easily learn and the things he will never learn. In your day-to-day relationship with your horse, you are his teacher (whether you want to be or not); for him to succeed as your willing partner, he must also acknowledge you as his leader. If you don't understand his social nature and his physical capabilities, you will never be a good trainer.  There are three important parts to the training process our philosophy, approach and technique.


·         Philosophy is the general intention about how results are achieved and is fairly constant in my case Natural Horsemanship. For example, natural horsemanship is a philosophy, as is training through force and domination.  Philosophy is fairly constant, but approach and technique must be flexible to achieve success.

·         Approach is how you present yourself when teaching and approach is affected by philosophy.  Do you come on strong and force an issue, or do you work quietly and allow the horse time to work through his options? Technique is the specific teaching tool employed at any time and must be flexible in order to succeed.

·         Technique is affected by approach.  I believe that it is necessary to modify our techniques based on the learning and behavior patterns of the individual horse. Being adaptable as a horseman is important. Over the years; I have worked with many people and sometimes their technique just isn’t working the way it should. When they adapt techniques to match their horse's behavior patterns and individual learning style it becomes logical for the owner and the horse and meets the needs of the horse.  The techniques we use must be flexible in order to succeed!

I have said this before but it bears repeating: the best piece of advice I was ever given about training horses was from Ray Hunt and he just said, “think.”

Suggested Reading:


Understanding Equine Course