Tip Number 1:
Horses have a natural instinct to pull and push against pressure – not give and soften to it. So every opportunity you get, teach your horse to soften to pressure. You always want your horse thinking of how he can give and soften to pressure, rather than thinking of how he can resist, stiffen and get out of doing what you want him to do. I’m a fanatic about softness – I want my horses to be so soft that I can pick up on the reins with two fingers, and they instantly give. Or, I can barely touch them with the calf of my leg and they’re moving their ribcage or hindquarters away from it. Remember, the softer and more responsive your horse is, the more you’ll be able to accomplish with him.
Tip Number 2:
I have a saying: Two eyes are always better than two heels. If I want to teach you something, I need you to give me your eyes and your attention. If you’re looking out the window and staring at the people walking on the sidewalk or the cars going by on the street, all the information I am teaching you will go in one ear and out the other. But if you have your eyes on me, there’s a chance that what I’m telling you is going to sink into your head. Have you ever worked with a horse and came back the next day to repeat the lesson and the horse acted like he didn’t remember a single thing? It’s like the lesson never even took place? That’s because you didn’t truly have the horse’s attention and respect. When you don’t have a horse’s respect, he doesn’t remember anything you teach him. On the other hand, the more respect he gives you, the more he’ll remember. It’s that simple. You could be the greatest school teacher in the world, but if your students aren’t giving you their attention or their respect, none of the information you teach is going to sink in.
Tip Number 3:
The One Rein Stop is the first thing I teach every single rider in my clinics as soon as they get on the horse’s back. Why? Because once they realize that they can stop their horses anytime, anywhere, whenever they want, you wouldn’t believe the amount of confidence it gives them. I often refer to the One Rein Stop as the emergency handbrake because that’s exactly what it is. If you can stop your horse anytime you don’t feel secure in the saddle, you’ve just given yourself control of the situation. Riders who are insecure have a lack of control – their horse is running off, bucking, etc., and they don’t know how to stop him. He’s in control of the situation. They’re not. Once you know how to slide your hand down one rein and bring the horse to a complete stop, you’ll be able to take control and be a leader before any of that bad stuff even happens.
Tip Number 4:
Every horse has a thinking side to his brain, but until you show him how to use it, he doesn’t even know it exists. The thinking side is shoved way back in the corner of the horse’s brain. It’s like a tiny crystal ball sitting on a table covered up with an old tablecloth. Your job is to wheel the table out to the middle of his brain, sweep the tablecloth off and say, “Ta da! Here it is!” It’s very small and doesn’t get used much, but you’re going to make it grow. It’s going to get bigger and bigger until it takes up most of the space in his brain, causing the reactive side to get pushed back into the dark corner. Even though every horse has a thinking side to his brain, he doesn’t naturally know how to use it. It’s your job to show him how. The good news is that you get a horse to use the thinking side of his brain the exact same way you gain his respect – by moving his feet forwards, backwards, left and right and always rewarding the slightest try. The more you move the horse’s feet, the more respect you get. The more respect you get, the more the horse begins to use the thinking side of his brain. It’s a double good deal.
Tip Number 5:
The only way the horse is allowed into your personal hula hoop space is if you invite him in. And you’ll only invite him into that four foot circle if you know you can get him out of it. Think of how you want your neighbors to treat you. You might like your neighbors, but you never want them to just barge into your house. You always want them to walk up to the door, knock and ask to come in. At that point, you can invite them in or you can ask them to come back at another time. You always want the option to turn them away. You don’t want your horse to act like a nosey neighbor and barge into your space. When I first meet a horse it’s very important for me to immediately establish my personal hula hoop space. If I can touch any part of the horse with my Handy Stick while my arm is stretched out, he is too close, and I’m in danger of getting hurt if he should react. I always play it safe until I know I have the horse’s attention and respect, I can control his feet and I can trust him before I invite him into my space. I never assume a horse is safe; I always make him prove it to me.
For more information from horse trainer, clinician and reiner Clinton Anderson visit www.downunderhorsemanship.com