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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
Assess Diagnose beforeFix
Are all horses trainable
Be safer use a Dummy
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
How to Communicate Horses
How horses Communicate
Cycles and Pyramid Trg
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
TrainingGreenRarely Handl
Training Guidelines
Train Outside the Box
Training Principals
Training Pyramid Natural
Transfer GroundworkSaddle
Turning and Neck Reining
Winter Training Workouts


Rehabilitation of horses with behaviors that are undesirable cannot be an off the shelf quick fix. The individual learning experiences of each horse needs to be matched with an understanding of the kinds of behavioral responses that are likely to occur because of poor handling, training, environmental change as well as the motivations, which underlie these responses.   An accurate evaluation and diagnosis of the factors contributing to undesirable behavior is necessary before effective horse specific training plan[s] can be developed and implemented. The evaluation identifies the cause and the diagnosis identifies the associative links that have been made, the main motivational factors for the horse and the specific contextual and discriminative cues in which the behavior occurs. This understanding can then be used to develop horse specific training plans that will result in changing both the consequences of the horse’s own action and the underlying motivation that originally caused the behavior to develop. For example, where the underlying cause of a behavioral response is fear, the aim of the treatment is to disassociate the fear from the events that cause it and also to make the behavioral response of the horse unsuccessful in removing itself from the fearful stimulus.

The Evaluation

A good evaluation is a great place to start in any training program. You must be able to understand; who your horse is, what it knows and what it needs including where you’re at before you can determine where you need to go. To help identify problem areas by asking yourself these questions:

·    What are the symptoms?  My horse will not lunge to the right or my horse will throw its head upwards when asked to stop.

·    What caused the symptom?  Examples: The handler does not ask for lunging directional change properly or the rider pulled on the reins before sitting and cueing properly.

·    What is the solution?  Determine which exercises work on your problem areas!

Effective treatment

Whether a professional trainer is involved or not; correcting undesirable behavior is most effectively carried out with the owner or caregiver participation and in the horse’s normal environment. This is because learned behaviors are often environment specific. Thus taking a horse away from its environment and owner for rehabilitation may cause a short-term change in behavior in the new environment, but the horse may well resume its previous behavior on returning home. Since it is usually the owner who carries out the treatment, ensuring that these people understand the origin of the problem and the rationale for treatment is at the crux of effective behavior modification. Dealing with behavior problems therefore involves not only sufficient understanding of the underlying science and horse handling skills, but also good interpersonal communication skills.


Horse owners are much like people of any other stripe or occupation: they often seek the magic bullet that will solve all their horse-oriented problems or questions in one fell swoop.


Lead by Example

There's an old management adage that states to successfully lead one must lead by example. Truer words were never spoken, and this old truth holds true for horse owners and trainers also. Like many adages, most of us would whole-heartedly agree with the general concept if asked, but when push comes to shove some of us forget about it during the all-important critical moments of training or hardship.  When we work with our horses we expect them to behave in a cool, calm and logical manner at all times, yet all too often we have difficulties keeping our emotions under control.  There's an old management adage that states to successfully lead one must lead by example. Truer words were never spoken, and this old truth holds true for horse owners and trainers also.


Relaxation Is the Key

Relaxation; it's just one simple word, yet it holds the very secret to success for not only horse-handler relationships, but also life in general. Most people would agree with this sentiment on its surface, but fail to truly understand its importance when faced with hectic schedules or life's annoyances. Let's look at why it's essential for both horses and handlers to be relaxed before undergoing training or a trail ride.


Communication - The Big Secret

The problem is, when faced with a scenario such as; "My horse, who I've owned one week, fights the bit when I attempt to ride him. Can you help me?"  There is no single answer. There is no magic bullet.  I try to help folks out as often as possible, but when presented with a vague hypothetical such as the above one, what magic bullet could you provide? What quick tidbit of advice could you impart that would instantly solve the horse owner's problem? If you know of such a magic bullet, please Email me.  Here are just a few of the questions that pop into mind when faced with the above question:


How old is your horse? How many years has your horse worked under saddle? What breed is your horse? How experienced are you as a rider or handler? What cues do you use while riding? Does the horse consistently fight the bit? If not, can a pattern be detected as to when and where the horse fights the bit? Where do you ride – inside an arena, or out on the trail? How do you react when he starts fighting the bit? Before purchasing the horse, did you get a vet to check his mouth and physique that would rule out potential physical reasons for the horse's resistance? What corrective actions have you attempted when confronting the negative behavior?


I'll stop there, but there are many other questions one would ask before being able to give a more specific diagnosis to the above problem, and even then such advice would be lacking without personal observation of the horse in question. But answering the above inquiry isn't the point of this article, so I won't attempt to answer it here.  Instead, the above was to illustrate that there are no magic bullets when working with horses. It's not rocket science, or even particularly complex, but it does require observation, thought and knowledge.