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by Downunder Horsemanship

Training Tip: Get Out of the Concept Stage of Training With Your Horse

Once your horse understands what you’re asking of him, enter the “do it now” stage of training. When you first teach a horse something, it’s called the concept lesson. In the concept lesson, your goal is to get the general idea of the lesson across to the horse. For example, if you’re teaching your horse how to back up, you would first want him to understand that when you create pressure in front of his nose, he needs to respond to it by moving his feet backwards. As soon as he takes a step back, you’ll instantly reward him by releasing the pressure so that he knows he did the right thing.

After the first lesson, you’ll work on perfecting the exercise. Each time you work with the horse, you’ll look for a little more improvement. It’s like teaching a kid how to write. In the beginning, if he keeps one letter on the page you think he’s Einstein. Every year his handwriting gets a little bit neater. You don’t expect a kid to be able to write his name and keep it neat all in the first lesson. You build on what he knows and keep encouraging him to get a little better every day. This is probably the biggest problem I see with people who come to our horsemanship clinics. Too often, we tend to get stuck in the concept stage and never expect more from our horses or ourselves. Challenge yourself. Set the bar higher.

Again, one of the best ways to ensure that you get out of the concept stage is by getting hands-on help. Meet up with other No Worries Club members and join a Method practice group, watch a clinic, or take a lesson from a clinician. When you ride by yourself, it can be hard to recognize when you’re stuck in a shade of gray or not cueing your horse correctly. That’s why I take lessons with Ian Francis and ride with other trainers. Great horsemen constantly look for feedback and new nuggets of information to add to their knowledge.

Have a horsemanship question or looking for more training tips? Check out the No Worries Club.