1 Think about your dream
What would your ultimate dream with your horse look like? What are you doing? Who is involved? Are you excited (eventing) or relaxed (trailriding)? Take your time to figure out what your ultimate dream really is.
2 Set goals
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement (e.g. dressage)
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress (e.g. dressage test level 1 with X points)
- Assignable – specify who will do it
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved
3 Learn more about reward-based horse training
Reward-based horse training makes the results (behaviours) very reliable. Antoine de Pluvinel (1552 -1620) already said: “You can never rely on a horse that is educated by fear. There will be always be something that he fears more than you. But, when he trusts you, he will ask you what to do when he is afraid.” In reward-based training the horse is allowed to ‘ask questions’ and make mistakes. He will simply learn quickly because he is rewarded by something pleasurable when he ‘gives the right answer’. That makes the horse looks actively for the right answers. In other words: he will be eager to work with you and do as you ask.
4 Divide your big goals into smaller goals.
Make a list of all the behaviours your horse needs to master. Make for each behaviour a list with as many steps as you can think of to describe all the building blocks of the behaviours you want to teach your horse. The smaller the steps, the easier it is to achieve them. Think about your criteria: when are you going to the next behaviour? And write down what rewards you will be using. Remember: it must rewarding for the horse. It is the receiver that determines the reward, not the trainer. You might be reinforced by money, I bet your horse doesn’t care about it.
5 Set up for success
Make sure the right answers are made easy for your horse and the wrong answers a bit more difficult. If your horse outsmarts you, change the setting. Remember: it is your goal to reward your horse as much as possible!
6 Start training
Try it and prepare to fail. Try again. Every time you fail is it just another step closer to your goal. Learning is a process. Not only for your horse, but also for you as trainer! Enjoy your journey. Keep notes, see #8.
7 Reward the slightest try from your horse
Yes it is time to reward! Ask again and reward his successes. His successes are yours! Go to the next step after 3 times. Increase the difficulty slightly.
8 Write down your achievements
See this post to learn about 4 easy ways to keep a training journal! [-> Click here <-]
9 Adjust training where necessary
And don’t forget to give your horse a break or holiday. My horse performs the best after a break. It keeps fascinating me how well a break works. I wish I could give my horse only breaks and still perform.
10 ENJOY time spent with your horse.
Smile! Make pictures, poems, write a blog and enjoy even more! Enjoy not only training sessions, but also spent some ZEN time together!