For the past 20 years, Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has devoted his life to creating the best training tools and videos available to help bring his method to you. Join him on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and problem owners. This week, we watch as Clinton teaches us how to train your horse to ride in a group.
Clinton begins the episode by reminding us that this is a great exercise for anyone to do with their horse, regardless of their experience level. You’ll need a group of riders and horses to practice the exercise. Start by having every line up in a single file line with at least one horse length in between each horse and rider. When everyone is lined up, the last person in line will trot or lope their horse and weave in and out of the line of horses. When they reach the front of the line, they’ll circle the first horse and rider a couple of times, and then drop down to a walk and be the new leader. Then the last horse and rider in line will begin working their way up to the front of the group, and so on. This gives every horse a turn to come to the front of the line. It’s a great group exercise that allows all of the horses to get comfortable in traffic without getting nervous and causing problems.
If a horse does get nervous while the other horses are passing near him, bend him around in a circle until he relaxes and softens in your hands. Then put him back on a loose rein and wait for him to commit to the mistake again. With repetition, he’ll learn there is nothing to worry about and will relax.
To get the most out of the exercise, make sure that the horse weaving through traffic is hustling his feet and when circling does a tight circle. If you let the horse just go through the motions, putting in no effort and dragging his feet, you’ll be wasting your time. The more you practice riding your horse in a group, the less likely he will be to get anxious around other horses. Repetition is paramount to long-term success
After every horse and rider has had a turn weaving through the line, the group can relax on a loose rein and walk in a more cohesive line for a few minutes. Then you jump right back into training again and take turns advancing in the line. Ongoing training is essential to getting your horse as comfortable as possible to ride well in a group, which creates a safer setting for you, your horse and everyone around you.
The goal with this exercise is to teach your horse to listen to you and not get distracted by the other horses and riders. If you practice this exercise for a few days in a row, you’ll be amazed how your horse will begin to tune in to you. He will stop worrying about the other horses and won’t be concerned with what they’re doing. Instead, your horse will be too busy focusing on what you’re asking him to do. Exercises like this are what Clinton refers to when he talks about training on the trail. He wants you to make sure that your horse is broke so that he’s fully engaged whether while you’re out on the trail or performing exercises in the arena.
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