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.

> more

Related videos

Overcoming spookiness in the dressage arena

Uta Gräf

Spookiness is part of the natural behavior of horses. For success at competitions as well as for harmonic riding at home, the horse needs to learn to trust his rider and stay relaxed even in unusual or worrying situations. Uta Gräf shows how she prepares her horses at home in their everyday training for such circumstances.

Duration: 13:08 Minutes

Improve and develop impulsion

Ingrid Klimke

Supported by her mentor Major Paul Stecken we watch as Ingrid Klimke works the 4-year-old Trakhener mare, Eternity, following classical training methods to improve impulsion. We can also watch the result of beautifully correct training as Eternity takes part in her first competition. 

Duration: 20:01 Minutes

The first steps of the training of a young horse

Ingrid Klimke

At the beginning of his training, a young horse needs to learn to focus on the rider’s aids. The first steps will be for him to move with suppleness, in a steady rhythm in all three paces. In this video the young Danaro, a 4-year-old stallion is presented to us by Andreas Busacker, Ingrid Klimke’s husband.

Duration: 09:15 Minutes

The successful halt part 2: riding transitions

Reinhart Koblitz

Correct riding, as well as riding transitions, entails riding from “the back end to the front” (as one says). Reinhart Koblitz shows in this video exactly what that means and most importantly, how this applies to half- and entire halts.

Duration: 19:09 Minutes

The school of Légèreté Part 1: Theoretical basis

Philippe Karl

Those who wish to understand the philosophy of Philippe Karl and his School of Légèreté should firstly understand the theoretical aspects behind it. The foundation of his teachings is harmony and balance between horse and rider. The effectiveness of the rider plays a deciding role on the journey their training takes.

Duration: 10:59 Minutes