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    How fast can you reward your horse?

    24th in a Series

    Les Vogt for the California Horsetrader - October 1st, 2015 - More with Les, Training

    Last issue, Les discussed some methods to deal with pressure and communication. Now let’s look in detail at the process.

    The better you get at rewarding your horse for the correct response or even the correct thought, the faster he is going to progress through this program. More with Les

    This means that before he can be trained, you need to become trained. You need to get to the point where your hands respond to the presence and absence of resistance in your horse’s mouth, almost before your brain comprehends it. Think for a minute about when you drive a car (or, for our younger readers, ride a bicycle). When you come to a curve in the road, do you mentally stop and think about how you’re going to make it around the corner before you actually start to move the wheel? Probably not if you’ve been driving for more than a few months. Your riding has to start to become the same way:

    • If you feel pressure on your hands, get them working until your horse feels soft again—without even thinking about it

    • If you feel the horse’s ribcage move to the right, your right leg should put it back again – without even thinking about it

    • If you feel your horse soften to the bit, or respond right away, you drop your hands instantly to reward him—without even thinking about it

    At first this will take a lot of conscious thought on your part, but the day that you find yourself just doing it, without thinking about it—take yourself out to dinner or something special because you’ve just made a major breakthrough.

    At the same time, stop to think about how long it took for you to turn your cues into a conditioned response, and then make sure that you’re not expecting even faster results from your horse. Training a horse takes an enormous amount of consistency and patience. The faster you reward your horse
    for every right move, the clearer he will become about what you want, and the sooner it will become a conditioned response for him.

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