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 Post subject: What is "Try"? Recognize and Reward It!
PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:10 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 3:57 pm
Posts: 195
Location: Iowa
Training a horse can be really hard and really easy. It depends on how well you can communicate to the horse and how well you can read what the horse is thinking. If you can recognize the moment in which the horse is working for you and reward him for it, it creates a trust and a learning progression that will develop a strong foundation in the horse's training.

Let's say you are working with a horse on handling his feet. You lean down and lift the horse's pastern and ask him to give it to you. The horse nervously shifts his weight, momentarily lifting the hoof, but steps back down on it immediately. At this point you can blindly blame the horse for being stubborn, or you can recognize the fact that the horse did indeed move that hoof and should be rewarded. Giving the horse immediate release of pressure and praise can go miles in training the horse to lift his hoof when you ask for it.

You might need to break down the lesson into smaller increments, if this helps you think through it in horse language. At first, moving the hoof at all is an accomplishment. Maybe just letting you touch the horse's legs is an accomplishment. Every horse is an individual, and each one will respond differently. But build on what he knows, and make your goals realistic. If you can recognize the "try" and emphasize the right behavior, it will develop trust in a horse. Repeating the process will strengthen that bond and the horse will soon learn to give you his hoof and stand quietly.

A lot of horse owners totally miss when their horse is trying to obey and work them on right through it. Horses learn much better if they are given rest as a reward for even the slightest try at doing what they're asked. Rewarding a horse with treats will divert his attention from the actual lesson, but releasing all pressure, praising the horse, and letting him rest and think about what just happened will accomplish great strides in his learning. Next time you are asking a horse to do something, watch him closely and reward him at the slightest give in his demeanor. You will get a quicker response and a better bond with your horse.

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