Make Every Moment a Time to Train

Clinton Anderson | © Darrell Dodds

In the May 2004 issue of Horse & Rider, the article “Finding (Making!) Time to Ride” tells how busy amateurs fit horses into their already-full lives. Here, clinician Clinton Anderson shares his tips for making the most of the time you do have to spend with your horse. His advice:

Cluster training days. “If you have only three days a week to ride, you’ll accomplish more in your training if you can make those days consecutive, rather than spread throughout the week. This is especially true when you’re attempting to teach your horse something new. Horses need consistent, repeated training sessions until a learned response becomes a habit. After that, they can go longer periods of time and still retain their training.

“For example, when my horses get the weekend off, I find they have ‘Monday-itis’ when I begin riding again at the start of the week. I have to go back and repeat what I was teaching them on Friday, because they’ve lost most of it. On Tuesday, I can pretty much pick right up from where we left off on Monday. On Wednesday, we progress from Tuesday, and so on. That way, I make actual progress in all but the first of the days I ride that week.

“If, by contrast, you ride, say, on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, you’re dealing with ‘Monday-itis’ every time you ride, so your horse progresses much more slowly.”

Train all the time. “By this I mean, require some sort of obedience from your horse every moment you’re with him. When you’re cleaning his stall, have him move around you, rather than vice versa. If he puts his head up when you’re putting his blanket on or taking it off, pause a moment to desensitize him to the blanket and remind him to remain still. As you’re leading him, insist that he follow obediently, without hanging back or dragging you forward.

“The old horseman’s adage is absolutely true: You’re either training or de-training your horse every moment you’re with him.”

Mind the small stuff. “Your horse is constantly reading you in an effort to determine, ‘Is she serious, or not?’ He’ll test you in small ways — push into your space, wait a heartbeat before responding to your request, attempt to ‘get an inch’ here and there — then observe how you respond. If you don’t correct him on these small ‘cheats,’ he’ll eventually pull a much larger one.

“At that point, you may feel he’s acting ‘out of the blue.’ But, in reality, he’s been telling you for some time, via those little cheats, that he’s losing respect for you. Problem is, you haven’t been ‘listening’ — or correcting him.”

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