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Over the years, Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has developed a tried and true method of training horses, regardless of their past problems or traumas. He believes that getting horses to behave is simple; it’s training people that’s the real trick. Join Clinton on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and problem owners. This week, we join Clinton as he works with Elvis to show us his newest innovation of the method—the trail riding series.
A lot of well-trained horses get spooked, jumpy, and reactive when they’re taken out of the arena. They’re nervous and frightened because the trail is a whole new environment for them. That’s why it’s important to get train them properly using the trail riding kit. To get the most out of the trail riding series, it’s important to follow the steps and take things one exercise at a time. When you skip steps, you run into a lot more trouble quickly so it’s important to be prepared and committed. The first step is warming up the horse with a few basic exercises to get him using the thinking side of his brain before you go out on an open dirt road. Working with the fundamentals first is important to building a good foundation.
Clinton starts by brining Elvis outside and tells us that it’s the first time he’s had him outside the arena. Elvis is very alert and a bit jumpy. To get him to use the thinking side of his brain, Clinton does a few warm up exercises. When he shows signs that he’s less reactive, Clinton disengages his hindquarters, bends his head, and gets on. Once he’s on Elvis, Clinton immediately goes into the tree to tree with a three-quarter turn exercise, which helps tighten up turns and gets the shoulders moving. This exercise is a good way of getting more shoulder control. Clinton continues this exercise for a while to get a handle on improving Elvis’ steering and his balance collection.
Next, Clinton moves on to confused loping, which is one of his favorite exercises. In this exercise, the horse never knows where you’re going to go—you always try to do the opposite of what the horse instinctively does. Eventually, the horse gives in and says, “wherever you want to go is fine with me.” He relinquishes control and becomes submissive to the rider. This helps the horse reengage with the rider mentally and listen to commands. After Elvis is nice and confused, Clinton goes back to work on getting control of his feet on the ground through some fundamental exercises.
One thing that Clinton wants to tackle with his training on the trail is desensitization of external factors. While out on the trail, you’re likely to run into things that move and make a noise, so you need to make sure your horse is ready for that. To simulate this, Clinton uses the cowboy curtain. Clinton does some desensitizing exercises with Elvis using the cowboy curtain until he stops reacting to it. The more you scare your horse, the more they’ll realize that whatever their scared of isn’t going to hurt them and they stop reacting to it and getting so spooked. This is important to master before you’re on the trail to avoid any dangerous circumstances. He tells us that the main secret to getting a horse to relax to a new stimulant is by walking on either side of the obstacle so they can really think about the object.
The last exercise that we see Clinton perform is having his horse go up and down steep, steep environments to help get them used to the natural environment on the trail. He tells us the importance of having the horses take their time so they can really think about where their feet are. He works with Elvis, showing us how to make sure and take things slow and evaluate the situation as it happens.
Out of all the kits Clinton has produced in the last 25 years, Clinton believes that the trail riding kit is by far one of the best kits he and his team has released so far. This kit took about three years to develop, but it covers everything you need to know if you want your horse to master trail riding. Fundamentals in Action on the Trail is a supplement to the popular fundamental series that will show you how to apply the Clinton Anderson method on the trail and make the most out of your trail riding experience. To learn more about the Clinton Anderson training method or to get information on any of the products seen on our show, head over to our homepage and download the Downunder Horsemanship app today!