"What would a Kindergarten teacher do?"
Remembering your Kindergarten teacher:
Do you remember your favorite kindergarten teacher? The one you loved the most and still
remember 40 years later? That is how it should be when training your horse.
Your horse will always remember his or her "kindergarten" training.
I remember my Kindergarten teacher, his name was Mr. Vanian.
That was 45 years ago, and I still adore memories of him and his fantastic class and approach.
For all of us to relate, even if you don't have a child, how do you train your dog?
Not with force and punishment, but with encouragement, praise, and clear corrections.
You explain rather then demand.
You are kind, consistent, clear and calm.
Assertive and confident, not
aggressive or passive.
This is also how to best train your horse.
If you train your horses this way, they will: love, worship, respect, and adore you, and be polite as well.
Variety in your training program:
Variety, the equivalent of cross training for a horse. Very few horses do well with drilling.
They also need diversity and variety to keep things interesting and fun. And that is an important
If you make your schooling sessions fun and rewarding and interesting and exciting and varied,
your horse will love their schooling sessions and look forward to them each day. That is how you
build a mentally and physically happy horse.
30 to 45 minutes per day, five days a week, is plenty for most horses.
Longer than that, and you start breaking down their bodies physically, and exhausting there
minds mentally. Just because your horse does not work physically hard, in each 30 minute
session, they may be working hard mentally. They need a lot of mental breaks as well, just
like a child.
A horse can concentrate about as long as a kindergarten child, that is your rule of thumb.
How long can your five-year-old child concentrate? How long can your six month old puppy
concentrate? That gives you a baseline for your horse. If you demand that they concentrate
for too long in each session, you will burn them out. They will become frustrated,
angry and irritated. They will become defensive and no longer want to work for you. Please keep this in mind! This is a very important point!
All of my horses look forward to their schooling sessions each day. There is a definitive reason for
that. I get no ears back, no teeth grinding, no angry or frustrated horses. There is a reason for that as well.
Even if it is just the littlest thing, really praise your horse a lot.
It will build your horse's confidence, and make them proud of themselves, which builds a positive
sense of self worth.
Your job is to build confidence and self-esteem. To build a solid education with a solid foundation.
Be compassionate when needed.
Praise often, heartily and with conviction.
Really pat them, regularly, on the ground and under saddle.
You horse will response with joy and pleasure.
They will try harder to make you happy, and to do what is asked of them.
I can not stress enough, how important this is for your horse's positive sense of self worth and self
I find it very upsetting, to watch trainers, and riders go through their entire ride, with, for reward, just a stroke on the neck at the end of the session.
Horse's thrive and learn from instant, positive reinforcement.
Praise each and every thing that your horse does right, through-out the training session.
I promise, your horse will try harder, learn more, and be happier.
Your voice is also an excellent aid: cooing for praise, growling for correction.
Cooing, like you do with a baby human or animal, is something that horses love and respond to.
Talking to your horse is a great way to strengthen your relationship, and to keep your horse relaxed
Singing works extremely well to alleviate tension and/or fear, in both the horse and rider.
I teach my students to get a song going, that they like, and simply keep repeating it in a loop.
You will be amazed how hard it it to stay tense or fearful, when you are singing.
This technique works especially well out on the trails, or at horse shows.
Physical and Mental Health:
Why is it that my horses do not colic, have ulcers or get bellyaches?
That is not by chance, but by my training and handling methods.
The horses advance consistently each day.
They have extremely strong foundations and work happily and
joyfully and willingly, with little defensiveness, mental, or physical blocks.
Some people might accuse my methods as being too fluffy, or too easy.
But, my horses stay sound physically, they stay healthy physically, they stay healthy and sound
mentally, and we still get our desired goals. My horses still get to where they need to be training wise, and keep their owners safe and happy.
Unlike many of the barns you walk into, you do not have multiple horses that are lame, that are
rehabbing, that have had a recent colic, that crib or windsuck or weave, that are angry and ears
back and teeth grinding under saddle.
You get none of that in my barn.
It is not by accident, it is because of my 45 years of horse experience
and training, creating a positive program for horses and riders of any level or discipline.
Are my horses ready to compete as Eventers, or run the Tevis, or compete at the FEI level of
No, but that is for their graduate degree, which you could call "finishing school".
My training technique produces horses that are ready to move up and move on,
correctly and without resistance.
Like children, and adults for that matter, horses should not be rude or bossy.
Bossy, to a point, within limitations.
But never rude.
Rudeness is unacceptable.
Most horses are very smart.
They know when they are being rude or obnoxious or naughty.
It is perfectly OK to correct a horse that is being rude or naughty.
Make the correction, and Move On.
No reason to dwell.
Always follow a correction with a pat, and never hold grudges.
Your horses don't think like that.
They don't understand grudges.
Keep in mind that your horse hangs out and relaxes 23 hours a day.
One hour a day, they can go to school, concentrate, and learn.
It is good for their minds and good for their bodies.
Always teach with praise, consistency, and with positive reinforcement.
Try to stay as objective as possible, try not to let your emotions get the best of you, and try
not to take things personally.
Your horse still loves you, even if he does something naughty.
Just like your child still loves you even if she crayons on the wall.
However, also keep in mind that a horse is a prey animal, ruled by fight or flight instincts.
And they are 20 times larger than your child. Therefore, there is always the danger element.
If your horse gets scared, they may run over you by accident, or they may kick you by accident.
If cornered or frightened, they will fight back.
You might not understand that they feel cornered and are frightened in that moment,
but a strike may be imminent.
Please remember also, if you are starting your relationship with your horse, that it takes about
a year to really know them, and to have a strong relationship.
Please be patient with yourself and your horse during this transition time.
Also, if you are having issues with your horse, you may need to look into other options.
For example, maybe your horse does not want to live in a big pasture with other horses.
Maybe your horse needs to be fed lunch in addition to breakfast and dinner, so he is not hungry all day long and food obsessed. Maybe, your horse does not want to jump.
Maybe he wants to be a dressage horse. Or maybe your horse does not want to be a dressage horse, maybe he wants to be an Eventer.
Sometimes, you have to change the situation or the relationship depending on what your horse needs.
If your horse cannot tolerate cold water in the wash rack, maybe you need to find a barn that has a
hot water heater.
All these things need to be looked at through a "problem-solving" lens.
You need to find a trainer that can help you through problem-solving issues without aggression,
negativity, fear tactics or approaches.
If you are hearing a lot of words like: Respect, Control, and Time Out, you might want to look for
Trust your gut:
Please try to trust your gut and your instincts.
If your gut says that your trainer is being too rough or aggressive with your horse, then he or she
probably is. Your horse will end up angry, resentful, and most likely injured.
Please do not be afraid to change trainers if your gut tells you that this trainer is not for you
or your horse.
If your trainer wants to tie your horse's rein to the saddle, with the neck cranked around in a horrific
position, and leave them like that in the round pen for an hour, use your common sense!
If your trainer resorts to mean/cruel bits or training apparatuses, to make them bridle up,
is that really OK?
If your trainer wants your horse to live in a stall 24 hours per day so that they have a nice coat...really?!?
Your horse deserves a better quality of life.
It is not worth it!
Would you treat your child that way?
I believe that artificial aids are perfectly fine, as long as they are used correctly and to
support the natural aids.
Whips and spurs and stud chains overused, are not OK.
Whip and spur and stud chain, used correctly, are perfectly fine in my book.
You have to think logically.
A touch with the whip, or bump with the spur, to support your leg aid, what is wrong with that?
It is very important to treat and figure each horse out independently and individually.
Each horse is it's own person.
Just like every child is different, every horse is different, and deserves and requires a different training and schooling plan.
Change the program for the horse.
What does each horse need to be able to excel to the best of their individual abilities.
Some horses need to warm up in a stretch, some need to warm up in an "up" frame.
Some horses do better warming up in the trot, others in the canter.
Some horses do better being ridden every other day.
Some horses do better being hacked out before they enter the arena. Etc., etc., etc.
My "Golden Rules":
1. Every horse I've ever met benefits from being Free Schooled before they
2. Every horse I've ever met benefits from consistency in their program.
3. Every horse I've ever met does not want to live in a box stall. Period.
4. Every horse I've ever met benefits from getting three feedings a day,
horses do not like to be hungry!
5. Every horse I've ever met benefits from kindness, reward, and positive reinforcement.
6. No horse on the planet wants to be ridden in a solid curb bit!
Stick with a snaffle or a jointed, shanked bit (See below)
Other important facts:
1. Saddle fit! Extremely important! Horses will not thrive if they are in pain!
2. Be willing to experiment with different bits.
Some horses just desperately need to go bit-less.
Also, as a general rule, no horse wants to work in a curb bit!
They all hate Curb bits.
Try to find something else.
Most snaffles are great.
Again, use your common sense.
Double twisted wire...probably not very comfortable.
For the Western riders, if you have to have a shanked bit, the Tom Thumb works great,
and the horses are comfortable in them, because they are really just a glorified snaffle.
Please refer to my article about Bits, on the "Products I Recommend and Why" website page.
As your horse becomes more trained a more sophisticated, they become more like a first,
second, third, and fourth grade students.
At the very top levels of training, they are like college grads.
At that point of course, you get into specialties: like Doctors, Lawyers, Psychiatrists, Architects.
The equivalent, for the horse world: Reiners, Cutters, Eventers, Jumpers, FEI Dressage,
Endurance, etc. You get the picture.
If you follow my advice: your horse will love, worship, and adore you, as well as respect you, and behave politely as well.
All the best, Clare
PS. Please feel free to contact me, if I can help in any way.