Clinton Anderson: Training a Rescue Horse, Part 1 – Downunder Horsemanship

Training a Rescue Horse

Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has a tried-and-true method for training horses, and it begins with training the owner. Using his training method, Clinton works to tackle some of the most challenging situations with problem horses and problem owners. He reminds us that as soon as you stop respecting how big and powerful horses are, you’re going to get hurt so it’s important to stay with it.

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In this week’s episode, we watch as Clinton works with Cider, a six-year-old palomino Quarter Horse rescue mare from Habitat for Horses who has a lack of confidence with humans.

Before Cider was rescued, all she knew was abuse, starvation, and neglect. This pattern of behavior led her to lose respect for humans and avoid instruction from her rescuer Jolene. Now, Clinton is taking Cider in for adoption to undergo a 13-week training course prior to getting a new owner.

After rehabilitation, Clinton plans to give Cider to a lucky horseman along with a new saddle, saddle pad, boots, bridle, bits, and everything you could possibly need. But first, she needs to be trained.

Jolene tells us that Cider was seized one year after an investigation of mistreatment occurred with her previous owner. She was starved and mistreated, and in terrible condition. She was adopted a year later. Unfortunately, her adopted family fell on hard times and was unable to take care of Cider, leaving her in another less than ideal situation. Due to her past, Cider has never been ridden and is very scared of human beings.

Since this is a sensitive case, Clinton starts training by getting Cider caught and getting to know her. This will help him address her reaction and take stock of any problems. With Cider, Clinton starts by walking up to her and giving her a few rubs without making eye contact to avoid confrontation and build a positive partnership. He tests her with halters, a few movements, and some pressure points. After a while of slowly increasing the intensity of these actions, Clinton is ready to put on her halter. Then he takes it off and repeats—his goal is to instill good habits in Cider from the beginning. Once he connects the lead rope, he is ready to take her into the roundpen and begin the Clinton Anderson training method.

Once in the roundpen, the real training begins. Clinton’s goal is to get the horse respectful of humans. He starts this process by getting her to move her feet forwards, backwards, left, and right. He does this while Cider is still connected to the lead rope for more control. After some time in the roundpen, Cider starts to submit. This is when Clinton removes the halter. He uses a Handy Stick as a tool to encourage Cider to move her feet or stand still and relax. He uses the stick to move Cider’s feet forwards, backwards, left, and right again while rewarding her for the slightest try. Gaining control of her feet, along with re-directing and inhibiting movement, helps gain control of her mind and tap into the thinking side of her brain.

Step one was establishing direction. Step two is getting her to do a change of direction to the inside. This is a sign of respect and is essential in the training process. To do this, Clinton steps in front of Cider’s drive line and holds up his finger as he walks backwards for her to follow. As soon as Cider turns and looks at him, Clinton steps to the side and starts walking back in toward her while pointing up high in the air with his finger to signal Cider to start moving in that direction. When Cider ignores the cues, Clinton cuts her off and repeats the steps. The more you drive their butt, the more you’ll drive them to look at you. And remember, whatever you do on the left side you must re-teach on the right side.

Throughout the remainder of the episode, we watch as Clinton leads Cider around the pen. He continues by working step number three: getting a consistent change of direction to the inside of the pen. He does this by stepping in front, then back until arriving at the fence where he wants her to turn inside to the center. Clinton finishes his work with her this week on step four, which involves getting a horse to stop, turn in, then eventually walk all the way up to you and then follow when you walk away.

Through consistent footwork, strong communication, and plenty of rewards, Cider slowly starts to pick up on the lessons and feel more relaxed.

Clinton Anderson is dedicated to helping horsemen everywhere understand how to gain their horse’s respect. To learn more about the Clinton Anderson training method, or to get information on any of the products seen on today’s show, head over to Clinton’s website


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