Starting a Young Horse

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From John Lyons Trainer Keith Hosman


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Getting your horse to consistently think "What's Next?" will have a huge impact on your training success because it'll keep his body in a position that allows him to quickly change direction, should the rider ask for that. It has the effect of keeping your horse upright through the maneuver in anticipation of the next. Instead of leaning into a turn, he'll round up, keep his shoulders upright, his hind legs closer to the front ones and be altogether lighter on his feet. He learns through repetition that it's easier for him to stay upright and not lean simply because it's easier to comply with your next command. He learns not to bolt into (or out of) a trailer, but rather to load like a gentleman.

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The First Thing I Do

By Keith Hosman, John Lyons Certified Trainer

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The First Thing I Do

Here's the first thing you should do with your horse today - and with any horse that's 'new to you.'

What's the first thing I do when I meet a new horse? The same thing you should do with your horse today and everyday: Give them a "resistance test." If you have the typical horse - whether you'd call him a problem child or a horse with just "occasional challenges" - this is for you.

If you get one thing from reading this article, it should be this: Any resistance from your horse while he's hanging out, just standing next to you munching grass, will be many times worse when things get hairy. If it takes one pound of pressure today to get him leading (away from that grass), it'll take one hundred when he gets spooked on the trail.

You have to ferret out those "one pound moments" and eradicate them like weeds. They're seeds that can grow into major disasters very quickly on the trail. If your horse "only freaks out once or twice a year but is otherwise great" - then you're fooling yourself. You're overlooking slip ups from your horse, perhaps on a daily basis, that will sooner or later get you hurt. Remember, accidents are by their very nature "things we don't expect."

If your horse went ballistic out on the trail last week... it didn't "just happen out of the blue." He's been telling you for weeks or months that he was going to lose it when enough pressure was applied every time he resisted (however slightly) the pull from your lead rope or reins.

If he walks ahead of you while you lead him, he's telling you that sooner or later he'll blow past you as you go through a gate or knock you on your kiester with his shoulder when something scares him bad enough.

If the muscles in his neck bulge toward you instead of relaxing when you put the bit in his mouth, he's telling you that he'll do mach sixty when he gets spooked on the trail.

Deal with these situations by doing two things: First establish a zero-tolerance policy; nip bad behavior in the bud the instant it happens. Example: If your horse inches past you as you lead, do an about-face and back that horse up. Keep him moving till he quits pushing back. (If he freezes pull on his head to pull his butt away from you. Getting those feet "unstuck" will allow you to keep backing till he lightens up.) Be adamant.

Second, get proactive. The first thing I do with any horse - and what I do each and everyday with all five of my own horses - is to see exactly where they stand when it comes to "resistance." Luckily the test and remedy are fun.

And having fun with this is a key point. Realize that every horse has resistance tucked away somewhere. Like an Easter egg, your job is to discover it. Instead of chocolate, your reward is a safer, more pleasant ride. The calmest, coolest, bestest trained horse you have ever seen has a little pocket of resistance hidden somewhere. Ever see that great comedy "The Ref"? Dennis Leary needs a cigarette bad. When he's told that actress Judy Davis has given up smoking, he smiles and asks her where her secret stash is. Being a smoker, he knows she's got one or two hidden somewhere in the house for high-stress moments.

In a like way, your horse may be a real pleasure 99% of the time, but somewhere inside him he's got resistance tucked away for "high-stress moments."

So let's get started squashing rebellion. Approach your horse from his left (bridled, haltered, bare naked, it matters not) and place your left hand...

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   Meet the author:  

Keith Hosman
John & Josh Lyons Certified
Clinician and Trainer

Utopia, TX (Hill Country of San Antonio)

Keith Hosman is based in San Antonio, TX and is available for clinics, lessons and training. He frequently travels to Los Angeles, CA and Kansas City, MO where he partners with fellow clinician Patrick Benson for clinics and demonstrations. You can find him on Google+ and Reddit



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Lyons Training 101: Issue Fifteen, Part 1
"Starting a Young Horse: The First Thing I Do"
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