What Makes Good Training?
A good Horse trainer can get a horse to do what he wants him to do.
A great trainer can get a horse to want to do it -
But what does this mean in practice?
Much can be open to individual interpretation, however for me it means clearing a path down which the horse wishes to travel.
I am currently working with a talented but challenging mare who has had considerable physical issues in the past (now addressed & closely monitored) which have in turn lead to problems in her training. So steering this horse down a different path has been a thought provoking process, & I have called upon my many years of remedial training for answers.
Having made excellent progress over the last few months we recently experienced a setback, & have had to backtrack in the training process. I firmly believe this incident (no-one fault) triggered memories of pain which she associated with her ridden training.
We had to be 100% sure that she was not in pain before finding a training solution. That done I went back to my old friends the long reins & very gently started to built up her confidence in movement, with short stints of ridden work to finish. Initially just walking her off at the end of a session, then increasing the time & beginning to include the more usual training patterns.
In our most recent training session we addressed the issue of canter, as there was still some reluctance. So after successfully cantering on the long reins I mounted & proceeded to set her up in a way that invited her to want to canter, & after a few hesitant attempts we were happily cantering around the school.
But then...….suddenly we could ONLY canter (or walk), a big bouncy canter! So what to do? I'm very happy that she has got this, & the mare was clearly enjoying herself, however we needed to come back & trot too. At every opportunity she offered me the fabulous canter I'd been seeking (whether I asked or not) & she was soo pleased with herself.
Here was a critical moment, say 'NO' you must trot now - & possibly crush her new found confidence, or let her keep cantering whenever she felt like it?
I chose neither, when she offered canter I then quietly asked for trot after a few strides, initially only getting walk (trot was non negotiable - apparently), then quietly encouraging the trot rhythm with my seat. After a few false starts, she got the idea that trotting was now OK again & then went on to produce the most amazing trot we've ever had: forward, powerful & balanced but most of all - CONFIDENT
At times in my mind I can hear former trainers saying 'get hold of it & RIDE it', however I do not feel this is always the best way forward. For me simply allowing the horse to find the path you have opened brings the greatest rewards.