We have reached the end of our series on training tips for a green horse. Upon concluding this series, there is one final lesson to discuss. Teaching your green mount how to move away from pressure before you climb aboard can alleviate some of the frustrations that can come with that first ride or two. I personally don’t feel like this is a MUST, but it certainly makes life easier in the long run. Hopefully by this point you have worked on all the things that we have discussed previously and now are respected by your horse. By now, your mount should be used to leading and tying, giving to pressure applied by a bit, side-pull or other device, and have some reasonable ground manners. Moving forward, you can educate your steed in what is expected of him when pressure is applied to his sides. I will qualify this article by saying that there are trainers and disciplines that ask a horse to move TOWARDS pressure as opposed to AWAY FROM it. In those cases, these techniques are less applicable. Furthermore, don’t feel like your animal has to fully grasp one skill before moving on to another. You can work with multiple skills during each lesson. Sometimes this is best because it keeps you and the horse from getting board or frustrated when trying to master one specific skill.
Like I said earlier, this skill is not a must in my book, but sure helps make the first few rides more enjoyable. People tend to get frustrated when they get on a very green mount because they forget that the HORSE doesn’t know that squeezing his sides is a request for forward motion. Additionally, they wind up tugging on their head in an effort to get them to un-track because the horse doesn’t understand that the pressure/kicking on one side means they are to move away. While there are bound to be some miscommunications in the beginning (and throughout your training process for that matter), teaching a green horse that pressure to his sides should equate to his movement away from said pressure can sure help reduce some communication errors. Not only will this help him better understand what you want when you get in the saddle, but it will save you some time and cuss words when teaching him how to steer.
Just as I said in the first article, there is always more than one way to skin a cat. Teaching this technique is no different. I personally like to familiarize a green horse with the bit pressure and then closely follow that lesson up with this one. They somewhat go hand in hand and therefore are logical to teach simultaneously. As you are on the ground teaching your horse to give to the bit (or side-pull, side reins etc) start slowly applying pressure to the area where you leg will lie if you were mounted. Between the gentle pressure applied to the bit (for example) and the pressure to the horse’s side, he should start to put two and two together, so to speak, and learn how you want him to respond to the pressure on his mouth and sides. Remember, positive reinforcement works well in training, so make sure that when you get the desired response you praise the animal. At first, don’t expect the moon. A movement or small step away from the pressure is enough to stop, praise your horse for moving in the direction you asked him to, and then get back to work. Making the place you want them to go as comfortable as possible, and the place you want them to go away from uncomfortable, is the easiest way to convince the horse that your idea is his best option.
No matter what your training style or discipline, the few skills we have discussed over the past four weeks can help make any first ride go smoother. I can’t stress enough that no matter what you are trying to do, BE SAFE. Evaluate every situation for possible danger and do your best to avoid any circumstances that will compromise the safety of you OR your mount. I personally find great joy and satisfaction in starting young horses, but I also know the importance of staying safe and taking my time. Getting in a hurry rarely equates to success?remember, people RUSH to the ER, not to the show ring or trails.