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



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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.

Further videos in this series:
Training horses to remain calm in uncomfortable situations Part 2: habituation to objects & noise on the ground
Training horses to remain calm in uncomfortable situations part 3: Getting used to umbrellas
 

You will learn in this video:

  • How to train your horse according to his way to learn
  • How to use groundwork to help your horse stay calm at all times
  • How to recreate and work on stressful situations that can occur at competitions

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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