Article Index

Approach & Retreat
Buying a Horse

Common Sense on the Trail
Curb Strap Tying Info.

Focus & Time
Ground Driving
Ground Manners
Ground Tying
In the Saddle
Introducing a New Horse

Lateral Movement
Mecate Reins
One Rein Stop

The Process
Progress Strings
Punishment & Correction



Round/Square Pen

Rope Skills
Slobber Straps
Training Home
Training Stick
Trailer Loading
Trailer Unloading
Tying from Above
Tying a rope halter




Training ~ Common Sense Horsemanship ("Printer Friendly" version of this page)

Please note:  The training section is a "work in progress".   There is information here on a variety of training methods and our approach to horsemanship. 

Common Sense Horsemanship - The philosophical stuff

horse under tarp pictureOne of the most important things to remember when training is that there is more than one way to approach almost any issue -- some work better than others and some are more humane to the horse. These are some different concepts and ideas about horse training. Think, be creative, and use common sense. If you aren't comfortable with your abilities, seek advice from a professional trainer.

What do horses do in the herd? If you were to watch a herd of horses in the wild or a pasture you would learn a lot from their behavior. You’ll see that they eat most of the day, sleep a bit, groom each other, challenge for position/status, and if they have enough of their primary needs i.e. food and water – they may play.  It’s important to understand the dynamic of what is going on in the herd to be able to relate this to how you will use this behavior in your training program.

Contrary to what most people think, the leader in a herd of horses is usually a mare. The stallion’s job in the herd is to alert the herd to predators and protect the mares from other "marauding" stallions (a kind of self-serving job). This lead mare decides when the herd eats, where they eat, and who will eat. She will use body language to control the other horses – she will make them yield to her, even from a great distance away. She will also discipline any horses that get out of line. The other horses in the herd respect the lead mare and look to her for support, even the stallions. You want to emulate the lead mare’s behavior. Once you have the respect of your horse you will have the foundation for training. This is what the groundwork will build upon – respect, support, and trust.

If you read Alois Podhasky’s book "Complete Training of the Horse and Rider" on dressage or Tom Dorrance’s "True Unity", you will see the common thread from two diverse thoughts on training. Horse training has to be set up correctly for both the horse and rider. If you go into the training mode thinking that your going to thump on the horse or force him into a posture or movement, you may get them to do it, but not reliably.

There is no "best" way to approach Natural Horsemanship training. You have to find what works best for you. If you are like us, you’ll use a combination of what Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance, Buck Brannaman, Pat Parelli, or Dennis Reis teach, or any of the other masters of these techniques. You can learn a lot from their experience. It’s not necessary to participate by riding in their clinics, but by all means if one of the "A list" horsemen shows up in your area we recommend seeing as many of them as possible.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Not only does your horse learn from them, but so do you. When you start out you’re not going to handle a rope like a rodeo star -- you may be clumsy with the lead rope. You have to use these tools in order to handle them competently. And you aren’t going to start out doing or knowing everything about horse training the right way.

Avoid the quick fix programs that you may have seen that involve "horse whisperer’s". While some of these programs are impressive, they are more showmanship than substance and you can easily get into trouble if you are not careful. While the trainers who use these methods are highly skilled horsemen, you'll never get what they are "selling" in the 2 hour sessions you will be exposed to. There is no such thing as a quick fix program for "troubled" horses.

Horses like to learn, they are not as intelligent as humans (well, some of us), but they can learn complex things through repetition and conditioned response very rapidly. The first couple of things that you teach your horse may take some time. Each subsequent thing that you teach your horse will come quicker and quicker. You will notice huge advancements if you do your homework correctly.

We have a three-year-old filly that we have had in training for nine months. The first three months were spent on the ground getting all of the "bugs" worked out. The last six months have been under saddle. It took three weeks in the initial training just to have her to let us touch her ears. In contrast, during the ninth month under saddle it took 2 hours to teach her how to side pass, leg yield, and do turn on the haunches. This is possible because we have set up a learning environment were the horse knows when it has accomplished a movement correctly. The horse knows this because we reward her with a pet or scratch to the withers (this sounds too easy, doesn't it?). This method of reward has been done since the filly was started and she understands that there is a correlation between doing something correctly and the reward.

Next Concept: The Training Process


There is some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Horses can cause serious injury. Be sensible and don’t attempt anything that is outside your comfort level. This information is intended to illustrate how we apply our training techniques, you are responsible for using this information wisely. If you don’t feel comfortable with your abilities or an exercise, don’t do it! Seek advice or assistance from a professional horse trainer. Stay on the "high side of trouble".

Natural Horse Supply Training Information, (c) 1999 Natural Horse Supply. All rights reserved. Duplication of any material  prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached and you have written permission. E-mail to submit comments or request reproduction permission.


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