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 Training Corner

Training -The Slow Way



Training has been my interest for over 30 years. I have worked with many breeds throughout. Today training endurance horses is at the core of my program. My aim is to prepare each one mentally and physically for the rigors of long distance work so they are able to travel these distances in a safe and self-contained manner.

Mental preparation is my primary focus for every horse I take into training. Personal contact and attention are the key components used to understand each one. They learn to trust me, look forward to horse treats when they see me and look forward to being rubbed and scratched. I want them to think, "Hummm, maybe he has something for me." They are just like three year old children.

I would like to share with you the growth of one horse in training, his name is Ben. Ben is an 8 year old purebred Arabian gelding with 15 racetrack starts and 5 completed 50 mile endurance rides. Previously, he had been in training, as I understand, with a trainer who rode him almost entirely in an arena developing Ben's mechanical skills. Ben came with a lot of "stuff"- turns, stops, suppleness and more. But…by that time he had built a protective shell around himself, saying, "You are not coming in and I am not coming out!"

It took several weeks of riding and reading his signals for us to get to know each other. By then I knew my riding focus needed to change drastically because Ben did not need any twisting, bending, bridling or suppling and, as a result, I began to ride him straight ahead. After about 45 days of this method of riding, Ben said, "Okay, you are the leader."

The first time Ben showed any enthusiasm was at about 3 1/2 months of riding. It was something that had to come voluntarily from him, not something I could make happen, thus the phrase, "Let It Happen." Since then, Ben has removed his shell. He likes to see me enter his pen with a horse candy and likes to receive a rub or scratch and nickers to me when I feed. He has become a cream puff inside, his eye has softened because he trusts me and he is a star every time I take him out on the trail. I really like Ben.

Currently, I continue to ride Ben straight forward on training and endurance rides. He remains successful with each ride, not exhausted or wrung out. He goes wherever I send him in a relaxed manner. I am careful to end all our rides with his "tank half full" not "half empty" in order to maintain his self-confidence. My goal is to promote Ben's positive attitude and enthusiasm towards being ridden.

Recently, I have been working on Ben's extended trot. I hand gallop him then drop him down into the trot in an attempt to use the adrenaline and impulsion from the gallop to make it easier to encourage more speed in the extended trot. All I do is "peddle" him with my feet and legs, I never spank him with the rein. He will get it one day, all I have to do is keep him successful and "Let It Happen."

When a horse comes to my barn for training, I am committed to him. I do all my own feeding, cleaning pens, saddling and riding. I only take three horses into training at a time due to time and space thus ensuring personal attention for each one. All training is done alone "on the trail" which focuses the horse's attention on me. Each ride is at a different pace, on a different route and at a different time of day. The amount of time on the trail, the distance and frequency of rides along with days off between rides are different depending upon the needs of each horse. Since I live at a trailhead, the training and conditioning area is ideal for the endurance horse. The area contains dirt trails, hills, water obstacles, bicycles, occasional motorcycles, walkovers, brush, deer, elk, bear and more…….

Information about the work I do with horses in training can be studied on this website under these titles: Keep It Simple, Preparing Tempestad, Preparing the Endurance Horse and Who Is Maverick?.

Why is there never enough time to train correctly the first time, yet all the time necessary for the correction? The slow way is the fast way.

 Email - hought@hought.com

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