Horse Training Techniques
I’ll bet you already are aware that there seem to be as many horse training techniques as there are trainers.
What got me thinking about this today was an article by a gentleman named Monty Bruce who trains performance horses.
All of the horse trainers that I admire have two things in common; first, knowingly or otherwise, they all base their training on classical riding principals. Second, they all have a deep respect for horses and put their horse’s welfare ahead of their own personal agenda.
Anyway, back to Monty Bruce, whom I hadn’t heard of before today; which isn’t surprising since he is from Iowa and trains horses in reining, cutting and ranch versatility disciplines.
Monty, his assistants and his students have won many World and Reserve Championships.
In his article he talks about spending time teaching horses slowly and quietly, to give them a solid foundation. He spends a lot of time keeping them relaxed and slow, because it is difficult for them to learn the more advanced maneuvers and balance at higher speeds.
Monty says; “I don’t want to make my horse do anything. I want to teach him how to do it, have him think it’s a good idea, and then do it. To teach a horse something, we have to let them make mistakes, then correct them over and over before they get solid at it.”
I love that Monty uses patience, relaxation and repetition.
Which also follows my principals for training a horse. You want to take things slow and make it easier for the horse to do the right thing than the wrong thing.
If you keep your horse in a state of relaxation rather than stress or tension they learn much better…no matter what your riding discipline is.
In his article Monty was writing about horses “charging” or “leaving without us.” I would call this getting quick, leaning on the bit, or getting heavy.
Monty says that when he picks up the lope (or canter); if his horse gets fast or “pushy” he will stop his horse, back up, and then proceed to do a series of softening exercises.
I LOVE that he says; “I will not hang on his mouth holding him back with the reins, because if I do I make him stay slow, instead of teaching him to be slow. By holding this pressure it makes a horse feel trapped, and most of the time a horse feels like he is trapped he will push harder, compounding the problem.”
I agree 100% with what he is saying. I have learned that the horse cannot resist, unless you give him something to resist.
So you use half halts instead of hanging on the reins, and also changes of gait and work towards softening and relaxation…before you ask again for whatever it was that caused the tension in the first place (in this example the lope/canter).
Monty will stop the horse with a slow but strong pull, back them several step steps and then let them sit still for 5-10 seconds.
He says he may have to do this up to 50 times in a training session, but that it will work eventually if you keep at it!
He says that when he does the bending and softening exercises he accomplishes two things:
1. He is obviously softening and relaxing the horse’s body and muscles, which is partly why the horse is pushy.
2. He is interrupting the horse’s pattern of thinking to immediately speed up. It is a lot harder and less fun to back and do softening exercises, than to lope slow. (going back to making it easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing!)
Monty’s final thought is “In all the training we do we need to keep in mind, I’m not going to fight with my horse, I am going to teach him, let him make the mistakes then correct it and as may times as it may take till he gets solid.”
After reading just this one article written by Monty Bruce I know that he is a trainer whose horse training techniques I respect.
Monty, his assistants, and his students have won numerous World and