Training horses to remain calm in uncomfortable situations Part 1: How do horses learn



Trainer: Warwick McLean

Waving flags, spectators with umbrellas, loud music and hustle and bustle at competitions - naturally, horses respond in such situations by attempting to flee which is firmly anchored in the instincts of herd animals and has ensured survival in the wild. In this video series, Warwick MacLean will introduce you to his training method to help horses become comfortable in unusual situations.

Riding horses today are expected to face all of these challenges with composure and self-confidence. But to do so, they need to develop an understanding of the situations and learn not to react by running away. So that the rider can train his horse accordingly, he must first know how horses learn. There are three types of learning in horses: first, habituation, second, operant conditioning, and third, association.

There are two possibilities to consolidate the success of this work, either by positive reinforcement, that is by rewarding for the desired behavior or by using negative reinforcement, taking something away, e.g. removal of pressure. In either case, consistency is key. The training method is based on working with basic exercises, such as backwards and sideways as well as standing still, this way the foundation for controlled and calm reactions from the horse is established.

You will learn in this video:

  • Methods to train your horse according to the way he learns
  • How to use groundwork to help your horse relax
  • How you can recreate the stressful competition factors at home and train your horse in these situations

Further videos in this series:

Warwick McLean

The Australian combines his years of experience in horse behavior training and retraining horses, with his love of dressage, training and competing horses to Grand Prix. Together with his wife, he manages a training stable near Düsseldorf. He also assists with training the horses of Jessica von Bredow-Werndl.

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