The Horse Logic Blog

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Training Tree:‭ ‬Rhythm and Relaxation

Training Tree:‭ ‬Rhythm and Relaxation

By:‭ ‬Sara McKiness

Every person that handles horses should have a relationship with that horse,‭ ‬which is based on trust.‭ ‬With a relationship based on trust you accomplish a lot more,‭ ‬and it is also easier on both trainer and horse.‭ ‬The more the horse trusts you the more he is willing to do,‭ ‬and also the harder that he tries.‭ ‬With trust as the foundation your horse will also be much more responsive and obedient to what you ask for.

As training progresses you start to move up the training tree.‭ ‬The training tree‭* ‬is a systematic progression in training that is logical for both the horse and rider.‭ ‬The training tree has‭ ‬10‭ ‬steps that allow the training to be understood by both horse‭ ‬and rider.‭ ‬In this article I will go into more detail on the first‭ ‬2‭ ‬steps of the training tree,‭ ‬they are Rhythm and Relaxation.‭ ‬The articles to follow this will also go into more detail on the steps of the training tree.

Rhythm is step‭ ‬1‭ ‬of the training and the foundation for all horse training.‭ ‬This applies to both groundwork and under saddle work.‭ ‬The definition of Rhythm:‭ ‬a regularly repeated pattern,‭ ‬movement,‭ ‬beat or sequence of events.

Rhythm is the first step of the training tree because it is the foundation for all training.‭ ‬The reason for this is rhythm helps to establish trust.‭ ‬When your horse trusts you it makes training easier and quicker.‭ ‬Another reason that rhythm is the first step in the training tree is rhythm helps to show the horse that you are consistent in everything that you do.‭ ‬So you as the handler need to really train yourself to always be rhythmical anytime you are around the horses.‭ ‬This means that your breathing,‭ ‬footfalls,‭ ‬and anything else that you do need to have a consistent rhythm.‭ ‬Horses pay close attention to these details because in the wild it can mean life or death.‭ ‬This is instinctual for all horses and shows how much you need to pay attention to them in order to make it a positive experience for all.

So when you go to your barn and go out to the pasture to get your horse remember to stay very rhythmical and consistent.‭ ‬This will start out the time you spend with your horse positively.

One way you can pay attention to your horse's rhythm is through his breathing.‭ ‬If your horse maintains a consistent rhythm in his breathing than he has rhythm.‭ ‬You must also strive very hard to maintain your own breathing.‭ ‬It is very important to never hold your breath.‭ ‬This will interrupt any rhythm that you might have,‭ ‬and can cause the horse to lose his rhythm.‭ ‬Anytime that your horse‭’‬s breathing is not rhythmical he is worried about something and it is usually something that the handler has caused.‭ ‬ For example you introduce a new piece of equipment such as a saddle pad.‭ ‬This causes your horse‭ ‬to breathe‭ ‬faster‭ ‬and he has lost his‭ ‬rhythm at this‭ ‬point.‭ ‬By introducing the saddle pad in a non‭ ‬rhythmical way you have‭ ‬interrupted‭ ‬the‭ ‬rhythm‭ ‬and thus can‭’‬t proceed further up the training tree.‭ ‬At this point you need to back up a step with the training,‭ ‬and then‭ ‬when you have achieved‭ ‬rhythm once‭ ‬again,‭ ‬you can then reintroduce the saddle pad.‭ ‬Just make sure to go at a‭ ‬slower‭ ‬speed when reintroducing‭ ‬it.‭ ‬One thing to remember is you must keep your rhythmic breathing at all times,‭ ‬even if your horse spooks at something.‭ ‬He will start to figure out that you maintain your breathing and rhythm,‭ ‬which will show him that you are a safe place to be.‭ ‬This is a huge positive reinforcement of your relationship.

Rhythm is easier to maintain on the ground.‭ ‬Many riders will change their breathing as soon as they get in the saddle.‭ ‬This interrupts your rhythm.‭ ‬Remember to keep your breathing rhythmical especially in the saddle.‭ ‬If you have a hard time with your‭ ‬breathing while in the saddle try whistling or humming while riding.‭ ‬This way you can‭’‬t hold your breath.‭ ‬It will get easier every time that you do it.

Here are some things that can help you to maintain your rhythm with your horse:‭ ‬playing a radio in the barn,‭ ‬and using ground poles for walk,‭ ‬trot and canter work.‭ ‬Remember to pay close attention to both your breathing and your horses.‭ ‬This will make a huge difference in both of your training sessions.

Relaxation is step‭ ‬2‭ ‬of the training tree.‭ ‬Relaxation is step‭ ‬2‭ ‬because it follows rhythm very closely.‭ ‬Without rhythm you can‭’‬t have relaxation.‭ ‬In order to get your horse relaxed you must have rhythm.‭ ‬Your horse's breathing tells you whether or not he is relaxed and ear position will tell you what he is paying attention to.‭ ‬It is very important to pay attention to his degree of tenseness.‭ ‬These tell you how relaxed he is and about the mood he is in.

To get relaxation you must be very consistent and rhythmical in everything that you do.‭ ‬Nothing that you do with your horse should cause him any excitement.‭ ‬If it does you need to back the training down a level and accomplish that first,‭ ‬before returning to the next step.‭ ‬All training should be done in the smallest baby steps possible.‭ ‬This means that each step that your progress with your horse should not cause any reactions in him.‭ ‬You do not want‭ ‬any reactions that are caused by fear or nervousness.‭ ‬If you should get any sort of reaction again bring step back with what you are trying to accomplish.‭ ‬Once you have the relaxation again you can go back to what your were trying before the excitement happened.

Please visit my blog and check out new posts about training an untrained horse from the start.

I welcome any suggestions for future articles,‭ ‬or any questions that you would like answered in a future article.

Learn something new every month from‭ ‬Horse Logic.‭ ‬A new article will be featured every month in‭ ‬From the Horse‭’‬s Mouth‭ ‬by:‭ ‬Sara McKiness‭ ‬from‭ ‬Horse Logic.

‭*‬As Taught by Meredith Manor International Equestrian Center

Horse Logic‭ ‬2007

Sara McKiness
Horse‭ ‬Logic
Saint Charles,‭ ‬IL

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