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The Horse Logic Blog

Monday, February 4, 2008

Training Tree: Freedom of Gaits & Contact

Training Tree: Freedom of Gaits & Contact

By: Sara McKiness of Horse Logic

The next 2 steps of the Training Tree are Freedom of Gaits and Contact. These are very important steps in the basic training of any horse. However you do have to master the previous 2 steps in order to progress any further up the Training Tree. The higher up the Training Tree that we go, the more difficult it becomes for the horse. He has to work harder and also stay balanced with a rider on his back.

Remember to start out in a very rhythmical way (as described in my previous article). This helps to reinforce the trust that you have with your horse. Every time you handle your horse you are training him. Strive to always make it a positive experience that is horse logical.

Freedom of Gaits is the third step in the training tree. Freedom of Gaits means that the horse can freely move forward without any interference from the rider. Basically you want your horse to move however he chooses to, while finding his own balance with a rider. The rider does not want to interfere with a horses movement unless he is acting dangerous by bucking or rearing. The untrained horse needs to learn how to balance a rider at different gaits. Therefore you need to give him that opportunity. Otherwise when you pull you are un-balancing your horse and bumping him in the mouth. These are not going to give your horse positive experiences with riding. After he has learned to balance you the rider in different gaits, you can start to introduce contact.

I suggest using a round pen or other small area to use for the first several rides. Make sure that it is an area that is familiar to your horse. It would not be a good idea to take a untrained horse and introduce him to a new arena right before you are going to introduce riding. He will be worried about the new surroundings and this will interfere with your progress up the training tree. So by using smaller area to work and ride, you are making it safer for your first ride.

In order to be successful and safe with your first ride you need to have achieved all of the previous steps in the Training Tree. You need to have Rhythm, Relaxation and Freedom of Gaits during lunging and ground work. If you do not achieve success on the ground, then successes will not be obtained in the saddle. It is very important to be successful with the training tree steps on the ground first. This will then be carried over to the under saddle work.

The fourth step in the training tree is Contact. What contact means is to have an elastic, and relaxed connection with the horses mouth. You also have a relaxed, and elastic contact with your seat and legs as well. When you have a connection that is relaxed and elastic the horse will feel as if you can do anything with him. As a rider you must be relaxed in your body, as any tension will cause the contact to loose it's elasticity, and thus you bang the horse in the mouth. When you get correct contact with your horse he will be soft in your hand (ie, not pulling), and also lift his back to use it more effectively. You can not get correct contact until the horse has achieved the previous steps in the training tree. Once he has successfully achieved Rhythm, Relaxation, and Freedom of Gaits, you can start to work on contact.


You first introduce contact on the ground through side reins. These will help to teach your horse about correctly reaching for the bit, and they are steady and do not bang your horse in the mouth. Side reins need to be very loose when first introducing them. As your horse accepts side reins and becomes comfortable with them, you can start to shorten them. *A note of caution side reins should always start out loose and then gradually be shortened. NEVER leave them attached to your horses mouth/ bit when leading a horse. Your horse will first learn about correct, relaxed, and elastic contact through side reins. The side reins are an elastic contact because of the elastic in the side reins, but also because they dot not change in length. They stay the same regardless of what your horse is doing. This is not necessarily true for work under saddle. What commonly happens is a rider will start to get nervous when riding a young horse and as the horse starts to speed up, this makes the rider unknowingly shorten the reins. This causes confusion with a horse as he doesn't fully understand communication with the reins yet. When you are fist working them under saddle remember it is very important to remain quiet with your hands as this will help to prevent any negative experiences with the reins.

As your horse progresses in his training, all of the groundwork that you have accomplished this far will start to carry over to the under saddle work.

***Remember if at any point you are nervous, or unsure please consult a professional trainer. These articles are for educational purposes.***


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.

Ă“Horse Logic 2008

Sara McKiness
Horse Logic
Saint Charles, IL
630-631-2746
sara@horselogic.net
www.horselogic.net

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2 Comments:

Blogger buckaroojohn said...

Your blog was not only informative but well written. Your explanation on how to train your horse was easy to follow, especially for beginners. I myself am a horse lover and I have been producing quality leather horse tack for over 30 years.
My family and I enjoy the horse community as well as sharing our passion for quality equipment and proper use and maintenance. If the product is inferior then the horses performance will also be inferior. I recently created a
blog to discuss horse tack, proper care and maintenance, and tips on safety not only for rider but for the horse. Please visit my blog and comment. VisitourBlog
See you there! BuckarooJohn

Blogger buckaroojohn said...

Your blog was not only informative but well written. Your explanation on how to train your horse was easy to follow, especially for beginners. I myself am a horse lover and I have been producing quality leather horse tack for over 30 years.
My family and I enjoy the horse community as well as sharing our passion for quality equipment and proper use and maintenance. If the product is inferior then the horses performance will also be inferior. I recently created a
blog to discuss horse tack, proper care and maintenance, and tips on safety not only for rider but for the horse. Please visit my blog and comment. VisitourBlog
See you there! BuckarooJohn

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