Training Tips from Clinton Anderson

Clinton Anderson works on lateral flexion | © Darrell Dodds

Clinton Anderson, whose “Downunder Horsemanship” is featured in his clinics across the country and in a weekly television program on RFD-TV, is profiled in the December ’03 issue of Horse & Rider. He offers tips and advice to help you improve your horsemanship and enjoy your horse.

On equine psychology: “Working with full-grown, wild Brumbies in Australia taught me how important it is to avoid forcing a horse–because you especially can’t force a wild one. I learned to play a cat-and-mouse game with them, to keep from pushing their prey-mentality buttons. I’d move in a bit, then wait, or even retreat. Then I’d move in a bit more, and so on.

“This same dynamic applies to your horse. You don’t want to overwhelm him and make him feel harassed. So when you’re working with your horse, it makes sense to do a little training, then leave him alone. Do some more training, then leave him alone. That way, he’s better able to accept and process the training without becoming defensive.”

On trail riding: “One of the biggest mistakes riders make is to be on ‘autopilot’ when they ride down the trail, and not give their horse enough to do. At my clinics, people are always telling me, ‘Clinton, my horse didn’t give me any warning before he spooked’–or bucked, or reared, or whatever.

“In reality, your horse is giving you signals all the time, but you may or may not be noticing them–a tensed muscle here, a pinned ear there, a raised head. When I trail ride a young horse, I don’t talk much; I concentrate on my horse, and on giving him things to do. The more you keep a horse’s mind busy, the less trouble you’re likely to have.

“It’s the same as with kids. If they have nothing to do after school, they’ll find something to do, but it won’t be what you want.”

On the bottom line: “Developing your horse requires, above all else, long rides, wet saddle blankets, and concentrated training. There are no magic methods or equipment. You must put in the time to get the results you desire.

“It helps to remember, too, that failure is just a stepping stone to success. The times I’ve been bucked off are the times I’ve learned the most — about how to do it better next time. Turn every negative into a positive — meaning you learn the implied lesson–and you’ll eventually achieve your training goals.”

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