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Day 85 - Training Principle #6

100 days Dec 24, 2017

This principle reminds us to train only one response per signal. On the surface, that sounds simple enough. For example, pressure on both reins together only means slow your feet. Of course, we can have several different cues to ask for the same response - in this case, we could have a seat cue and a verbal cue that also meant 'slow your feet'.

By keeping this principle in mind when we are training, it helps us make our cues really clear for the horse. As an example, I teach all of my horses to move their hips to the fence or mounting block and stand quietly for mounting (because I think mounting from the ground is less than ideal and I have very short legs, haha). The cue I use for this is to tap the left hip with the whip and release when the left hip moves left (yes, into the pressure, unusual, but like anything, works very well if you're clear with your cue and release). When I then want to work the horse on the ground and have him/her move around me, if I use the same cue of tapping on the hip, the horse may become confused.

There are two solutions to this problem:

1) Use a slightly different cue for the 'hips to the fence' lesson. Tapping the horse a bit lower down the hindquarter or on the gaskin will also work well and I often get riders, that are new to my training, to train it this way.

2) Use tapping the hip as a simple 'go forward' cue and shape that behaviour quickly so that the cue becomes your climbing on to the mounting block or fence or clicking your fingers in the direction of the hindquarter. This leaves tapping the hip for 'go forward' and clicking fingers for move hindquarters left. Personally, I teach it this way.

One particular instance where this principle is clearly important is when we look at re-training the off-the-track horse. These horses have experienced a lot of meaningless pressure and rein tension, in particular, can mean 'go faster' as well as 'go slower'. Of course, this is very confusing for the horse but we can clarify these signals once we start training in a systematic way. Check out the Off the Track Module in the Kandoo Equine Training for details.

Have you ever found a horse that appears confused about how to respond to a particular signal because it has more than one correct response? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

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