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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

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

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Buying a Horse Mismatched
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Soft Inside Light Outside
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TRAINING Ask Properly
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Train Outside the Box
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Training Pyramid Natural
TRUST and TRAINING
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Use a Dummy do not be one
Winter Training Workouts

Develop a Horse Specific Training Plan 


Developing your training plan

A lot of people search for a one-size-fits all training plan, kind of like a recipe for a cake that will guarantee fairly standard results if they just add the right ingredients and follow all the steps.  Each horse has different needs.  One horse may naturally love to lunge but he may be very forward moving and not want to stop but when he does he really stops nicely.  One horse may not want to lunge at all; so work with each horse and his individual issues break it down in individual small goals and fix them one at a time.  There is not one set of drills you using the same method for every horse.  If you are not sure look around you to find a horse with the proper form, compare that horse to your horse, seek help from a professional, watch DVDs and then decide what your horse needs to do.  Training lesson plans get complicated because the horse has to develop simultaneously physically, emotionally and mentally. Each and every day the trainer must decide where the horse is physically, emotionally and mentally. Then he or she can decide how lessons should be taught to keep the horse progressing so his development is balanced.  Once you have developed a generic training plan in order to develop the implementation strategy two Important pieces of the puzzle you will need to know is the horse's Personality Behaviour Patterns [desirable & undesirable traits], be familiar with a Horse Body Language because no training recipe fits every horse.  In additional you will need to customize the generic plan so it is more horse specific:


Training plans get complicated because the horse has to develop simultaneously physically, emotionally and mentally. Each and every day the trainer must decide where the horse is emotionally, mentally and physically. Then he or she can decide how lessons should be taught to keep the horse progressing so his development is balanced.


      • The horse has to progress step by step in horse-logical stages; exercises are arranged in proper mental, emotional and physical cycles on the ground and in the saddle.
      • If the trainer skips a step in his physically conditioning, we know he's likely come up with injuries or lameness down the line.  At a minimum, he simply won't measure. If he skips a step as he moves through the various exercises in his emotional and/or mental conditioning, he'll eventually hit the wall or fail to meet the job requirements, too.
      • Followed in the correct sequence, the steps in the training strategy methodically prepare a horses emotionally, physically and mentally to be ridden on trails or in competition. The training strategy has different levels that have to be mastered on the ground and in the saddle in sequence in order to achieve; relaxation, softness, suppleness, contact, rhythm, balance, putting the horse on the aids, collection, freedom of gaits, straightness, impulsion.
      • Not every horse is going to have the physical ability, the mind or need to be trained to the upper levels and a large percentage of the time, a horse gets limited by his rider’s ability level.  
      • No horse goes right through each level without a hitch because horses advance and regress. As the green horse learns to carry weight for the first time, he may think he’s got it all figured out. Maybe he’s a little crooked right now but he’s found a place he’s comfortable. And the trainer lets the horse go along and work freely and eventually the horse starts reaching for the bit and seeking some contact with the rider’s hands. Then the trainer asks him to start moving straight and the whole deal falls apart. All those compensations for the rider’s weight that the horse figured out to keep his balance don’t work anymore because the trainer is showing him something new, asking a different question. Maybe the horse even seems to go all the way back to start and loses his rhythm for awhile. That’s alright; you’ve got to think of regression as progression. As the horse’s muscles develop so he can carry the rider’s weight and stay straight in his body at the same time, all of the previous things he’s figured out will fall back into place.


Your goal

Whenever you are training a horse; “A goal without a plan is just a Dream”.  Identify small goals that will lead to you ultimate goal, understand what your horse will need to do to accomplish these goals and prioritize your cues accordingly.  Before you ask you horse to do something for example stop or back up; do you want your horse to do it quickly?  Are you more interested in body position?  Most times we have more than one goal.  We want the horse to stop in the correct position and we want it done as quickly as possible.  Then we should ask ourselves which goal we should concentrate on first?  For example, a horse needs to learn the cues first, then the correct body position before he learns to make the stop quickly or back up.  If you want a horse to stop and your top priority is to get the horse to stop but it won’t necessarily be a good and correct stop!  Maybe you need to think about how he feels.  Is he soft, is he leaning, is he pushy, is he initiating the stop in his hindquarters or in his front end?  If your priority during the Foundation of Ground training was that he stop softly and correctly, not how fast, his first few stops in the saddle may be pretty soft and he will learn how to do it correctly more quickly. 

 

Your horse

Horses are not born knowing how to be pleasure, reining, cutting, dressage horses or driving horses. We start with an assessment of the horse's; desirable personality traits, undesirable personality traits, inborn mental, emotional and physical abilities.  Once we have the information we develop and begin with a horse specific Foundation of Ground training plan for each horse that consists of a triad of exercises that prepare the horse for riding.  During the exercises we gradually apply pressures to shape his behaviour so he uses his physical abilities in the specific ways we want.  We need to condition his body along with his mind by focusing the emotional, mental and physical elements of the horse and control the five body parts; the head, neck, shoulders, rib cage and hindquarters.  Control to me means; when we ask the horse to do something he does it willingly and without fear.  In order to reach your goal of training your horse, you need to have some kind of plan for how you're going to take the horse from raw material to finished safe and trustworthy partner. Without a Plan your goal is just a dream!  

 

Developing your training plan

A lot of people search for a one-size-fits all training plan, kind of like a recipe for a cake that will guarantee fairly standard results if they just add the right ingredients and follow all the steps.  Each horse has different needs.  One horse may naturally love to lunge but he may be very forward moving and not want to stop but when he does he really stops nicely.  One horse may not want to lunge at all; so work with each horse and his individual issues break it down in individual small goals and fix them one at a time.  There is not one set of drills you using the same method for every horse.  If you are not sure look around you to find a horse with the proper form, compare that horse to your horse, seek help from a professional, watch DVDs and then decide what your horse needs to do.  No training recipe fits every horse; so you need a horse specific because:


Training lesson plans get complicated because the horse has to develop simultaneously physically, emotionally and mentally. Each and every day the trainer must decide where the horse is physically, emotionally and mentally. Then he or she can decide how lessons should be taught to keep the horse progressing so his development is balanced.


      • The horse has to progress step by step in horse-logical stages; exercises are arranged in proper mental, emotional and physical cycles on the ground and in the saddle.
      • If the trainer skips a step in his physically conditioning, we know he's likely come up with injuries or lameness down the line.  At a minimum, he simply won't measure. If he skips a step as he moves through the various exercises in his emotional and/or mental conditioning, he'll eventually hit the wall or fail to meet the job requirements, too.
      •  Followed in the correct sequence, the steps in the training strategy methodically prepare a horses emotionally, physically and mentally to be ridden on trails or in competition. The training strategy has different levels that have to be mastered on the ground and in the saddle in sequence in order to achieve; relaxation, softness, suppleness, contact, rhythm, balance, putting the horse on the aids, collection, freedom of gaits, straightness, impulsion.
      •  Not every horse is going to have the physical ability, the mind or need to be trained to the upper levels and a large percentage of the time, a horse gets limited by his rider’s ability level.  
      •  No horse goes right through each level without a hitch because horses advance and regress. As the green horse learns to carry weight for the first time, he may think he’s got it all figured out. Maybe he’s a little crooked right now but he’s found a place he’s comfortable. And the trainer lets the horse go along and work freely and eventually the horse starts reaching for the bit and seeking some contact with the rider’s hands. Then the trainer asks him to start moving straight and the whole deal falls apart. All those compensations for the rider’s weight that the horse figured out to keep his balance don’t work anymore because the trainer is showing him something new, asking a different question. Maybe the horse even seems to go all the way back to start and loses his rhythm for awhile. That’s alright; you’ve got to think of regression as progression. As the horse’s muscles develop so he can carry the rider’s weight and stay straight in his body at the same time, all of the previous things he’s figured out will fall back into place.


Every horse has his own timetable

The horse's age and health, his temperament, his current physical condition, his genetic athletic potential, his past experiences, his desirable and undesirable personality traits; all figure in when you develop your horse specific training plan as to how long it's going to take to train him to a certain level. The horse may progress faster or slower than you expected. If you plan to teach the horse specific things by specific deadlines, you're headed for problems. So you must work at the horses pace and not yours.  Some horses fly right through two or three levels and then get stuck for awhile. Plateaus are normal, too. It’s the trainer’s job to make sure he or she has correctly shown the horse what they want. And if they have, then they need to give the horse whatever time he needs to develop mentally or physically enough to move on to the next level.  Consistency is really important in training, especially with green horses. You cannot bring any horse along in its training by riding them on an erratic schedule. You need to be working them at least three days a week. Now that doesn’t mean you’re going to be putting the ultimate mental and physical pressure on them every day. But you’re going to remind them of what they already know and every once in awhile introduce something new. In order for this work to carry over and become muscle memory for them, you have to be consistent. Once you have a trained horse, you can give him a week or two off and they come back fresh and haven’t forgotten anything. But a training a green horse is going to act like he never heard it before, he’s never seen it before and he has no idea what you’re talking about. His habits aren’t ingrained yet so it may take you a week or so to get back to where you were before you took time off.  

 

A proper horse specific training plan works for training older horses, horse with behaviour issues and refresher too.  But before beginning the mounted schooling do an assessment to confirm that the horse as no holes in its’ Foundation of Ground Training.  If it as holes on the ground fix the holes on the ground first before you begin work in the saddle.  Then just start the older horse out just as though he was a green horse and work him up through each level. If he’s an old trooper, he’ll move right along through several levels quickly until he hits his hole, the place in his training that was skipped, or that he was never shown, or where he’s been compensating for his own physical limitations or those of his rider. So you stop there and go to work.  Sometimes when a horse has to give up an established habit, things fall apart. He seems to get worse instead of better. But, again, that’s OK. Until he figures out what his owner or trainer is showing him and develops the muscles he needs to perform at that level, he won’t be able to move up the training strategy and reach the higher levels. He’s got to untrain what he knows and retrain both his mind and body. That can take more time than if he had learned to do things the right way from the start. Cut him some slack and give him whatever time he needs.

 

Common mistakes


  1. Lack of a proper plan

2.    Lack of flexibility in the training plan and/or the trainer

3.    Not enough consistency, too much variety too soon

4.    Not recognizing and addressing early tension

5.    Asking the horse do to something he wasn't prepared for

6.    Punishment/harsh corrections and/or lack of praise

7.    Too much discipline too early—preventing your horse from doing something will usually lead to an argument (some horses love to argue, so when you try to make them do things or make them feel wrong for doing something you didn't want, it will create disobedience, it will create an argument; just say "I am not offended and then encourage him to do an exercise that is demanding.

8.    Not establishing a connection and maintaining the trust

9.    Pushing the horse to hard when he hesitates

10.Ignoring tension

11.Pushing /coaxing rather than waiting and allowing; forcing the horse to do something

12.Not enough release of pressure

13.Not waiting until the horse is calm

14.Confusing obedience for willingness

15.Too much repetition once the horse is confident

16.Not establishing lightness and following a feel

17.Bribing with food rather than using it for incentive

18.Lack of creativity and imagination

19.Too much physical exercise, lacking emotional and mental exercises

20.Micro-management and Perfectionism not allowing it to develop too much demanding

21.Asking for things before the horse is ready for it

22.Asking for his all every time; over doing it, horse becomes dull and not responsive

23.Creating disobedience

24.Not enough variety; you need consistency and variety for your horse

25.Not enough relaxation, balance and time to process the information

26.Asking for too much for too long, too fast and too quick.


At some point we all hit a snag in our training and if you do; you’ll have to back up and go back to the level you missed or did to quickly and master that before the horse can make lasting progress again.  The training plan applies to everything you do with your horse, even when you’re not mounted. If you go to the barn in a rush, throw the tack on and hustle the horse to the arena, you may find you have a tense or spooky horse. You can go back to the training plan any time to help you analyze problems. Often when you’ve got a problem, it’s going to be something that was rushed or missed as the horse moved through the training sequence. The difference is that now instead of calling your horse stupid or stubborn or something else out of frustration, you have a way to back up, find what he doesn’t understand, and fix it so that he can be the best that he can be and the partner you want.