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Kate Fenner - Sunday, April 21, 2013
I was always told that you shouldn't let the horse win. I'm sure you have heard the same thing - 'don't let him have a win or he will always try to get away with everything' or something similar. I was asked this the other day when I elected to get off the young horse I was riding when he started to indicate that things were going to deteriorate (for me!).

  Horse in arena 

The Naughty Youngster Himself!

The Scene: The young horse (5 years old) was gelded a couple of months ago and has only had about 3 (three minute) rides in the past six months. Having done a few minutes of long-reining, I mounted and did a minute or two of shoulder control (same-rein-same-foot and reverse arc) at walk. I then asked for a transition to trot and he began to offer alternatives to that such as dropping his head and bouncing with his front feet. Nothing serious but it wasn't moving in a direction that I was sure I could control from the saddle. The Solution: Work out exactly what I was asking the horse to do and get him to do that. I wanted him to make transitions up to trot and back to walk in frame, soft in the bridle, off the voice cue without leg aids, when asked and without any other behaviours (such as the bouncing and head dropping). The Action: I dismounted, held my long split reins in one hand each and asked him to work around me (just like long-reining on short reins - short-reining??). We got beautiful transitions, softness and self-carriage all off the voice cue and no unrequested behaviours. Did the horse do what I wanted him to do? Yes, indeed he did. Did both I and he remain safe and calm? Yes, we did - building confidence in both horse and rider. Two days later and the same request from the saddle was met with exactly the response I had obtained from the ground. Did the horse have a win? I actually don't think that the horse's mind can conceive of such a thing but I do know that I got what I wanted and the horse learned the lesson well the first time and didn't leave me with anything to un-train.

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