Horses are naturally curious intelligent creatures. They love to learn and to be useful. The basic initial goal of any horse training is to teach a horse ways to interact with humans safely and to learn useful skills to the benefit for both the horse and the human. Horses are herd animals and desire socialization – humans who treat horses with respect will be followed as their leader. Humans have been creating horse training techniques for thousands of years. Some of the earliest texts of Hittites written in Sanskrit are directives for how to condition horses. The Greeks and Romans wrote extensively on the subject. Even the training method of Natural Horsemanship (more recently known as Horse Whispering) comes from the Greek philosopher Xenophon in which he advocates for emphasized reassurance over corporal punishment of horses.
Very young horses need time with their mothers to mature into animals who can be trained. Horse training begins with foals learning to take a halter and being groomed or handled for veterinary care. learning how to train horses is beneficial for to anyone interested in keeping, caring for and riding horses.
Typically a very basic horse training class will contain the following practices:
Afterwards the course work will move on to more advanced skills needed to take your horse to the vet, to bathe your horse and eventually how to tack your horse.
There are various methods to training your horse. We here at Habitat for Horses believe in only using “positive” methods of training. No loud voices are used. No whips or ropes. No bucking. Just gentle words and motions. One positive method is clicker training. By means of a small device that makes a “clicking” sound, you can – with treats or even a bit of grain – train your horse to do an act without violence or negative reinforcement.
A few more advanced training methods include:
- Classical Dressage: came from military cavalry movements and training when horses were used in the battle field. It is the art of riding in harmony with the horses motion and evolved into competitive dressage seen today.
- Competitive Dressage or Dressage: Horses and riders train to performs tasks from memory. The horse and riders movements must seem to seamlessly flow with minimal aid.
- English Riding: There are many variations of style, but all English Riding includes a flat saddle with no deep seat nor saddle horn nor knee-pads (as found in Australian Stock Saddle). Both hands are kept on the rein and rider rises and sits in rhythm with each stride.
- Western Riding: developed from ranching and military needs were riders needed to stay on horses backs for extended periods of time. Often the rider needed to have a hand free to carry a rope or weapon. Horses are trained to follow their own natural instincts as well as responding to the lightest of touches on the rein on their neck. The main difference between the English and Western styles are in the saddle style (which is deep for the Western due to the need of a firm seat to perform various tasks) and the bit which Western styles use.