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Successful Training Sessions, by Monty Bruce

BruceGetting and maintaining the focus of  our horses can be a difficult task at times,  especially if you can’t ride/train with them consistently.   Coming out of the winter months can  be especially hard because our horses have  had so much time off.   It is imperative that we have our horse’s  attention and focus if we expect to get much  out of our training sessions.   If our horse is  always looking somewhere else, whinnying,  unresponsive to our cues, going and doing as  he pleases, then we know we have a problem.   Our horses cannot learn or retain the things  we are teaching if we do not have their focus  and attention.

Have you ever been in a conversation  or meeting when your mind starts to wander?   You are there physically, but not mentally, and  you have no idea what the person talking to  you just said.   It is the same way with our horses.

Other situations that would  make it hard for us (and our horses) to focus may include the following:

A. We are wound up with excitement or  energy as we just finished a pattern or our horse is just coming out of  his stall.

B.   We are stressed or uncomfortable with our  surroundings in an unfamiliar  place.

These are the things that make it  tough to learn and focus, so – how can we get focus and attention  from our horse when we are on their backs so we have a successful training session?   First, we need to take the excess  energy off by trotting some circles.   You want  to be able to trot nice slow, controlled, and  round circles.   If you feel your horse is gawking,  whinnying, or taking a hold of the bit and  pulling you around, you will reach down one of  your reins and pull his head around to your  knee bumping him with your legs to get him to  break free and soften up.   Normally your horse will  pull hard on the rein, but you need to  keep it up and until he quits pulling on your  hand, then release him and go back to what  you were previously doing.   By doing this you  are getting several things accomplished.   Each  time he takes his focus off you and what  you are doing, try bringing his head in and  going into a tight circle.   He has no choice  but to think about the situation and, in turn, you regain  his focus by bending his neck and body  and bumping with your legs until he relaxes  his face and body.   You are getting him to  soften up, which most all horses need anyway.   You are also making the right thing easy by letting  him out of a tough position (that you have  put him in) by leaving him alone when you  have his focus.   You are making the wrong thing  hard by putting lots of pressure on him and  making him work under tougher conditions by  bending him in a small circle when he does the  wrong thing (which takes his attention away  from you).   This process is not a one-time, immediate cure.   After repetition and several  sessions, you will see results and be able  to maintain attention, focus and control of your  horse, enabling you to have much more productive  training sessions and a more relaxing  pleasure ride with your horse.

[published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 2, Issue 4.]

 

Tell us how you get through Winter!

We enjoy hearing from you!

Until next time good luck and God bless,  Monty Bruce

Visit our website:   www.montybruce.com

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