Responding or Re-acting
When you are training a horse, it is important to know the
difference in responding and re-acting. When a horse understands your cues and
responds by doing what you ask him to do, he is set up to learn. He is due a
reward each time he responds by doing what you ask. If he does not do what you
have ask and you create a reaction by spurring or whipping, you can get movement
and activity, but the horse has not necessarily learned what you wanted him to
learn. You have taught him to re-act instead of to respond.
He may not understand that you were trying to correct him, but may become
When he is calm and able to concentrate as you repeat the cues in a consistent
manner, you have created an atmosphere for learning. I see so many barrel racers
whipping, spurring and jerking their horses – creating an atmosphere of fear. If
you train your horse from fear, when the chips are down and you compete to win
back your money, your horse will let you down.
A horse that is trained from repetition, reward and correction in a calm, fun
atmosphere will work for you when the chips are down because he will be having
fun and like his job. This is the type of horse that will last for a long time.
Look at your horse’s eyes. Is there life in his eyes and a spark to his look?
Or, is he depressed or disinterested? A horse will tell you when he is enjoying
the training and having fun with the program. He will also tell you when he has
lost interest. I think that one of the most important parts of training a horse
is to keep the training innovative, challenging and fun and to keep the horse
from becoming sore.
I have an idea (training plan) that I want to go through each day with each
horse. That plan will include what results that I hope to achieve with the horse
that day. It starts out with some long trotting to detect if there is any
soreness in the horse and builds from there. A Monday ride would be a lot
different from a Friday ride. On Mondays, the concentration of the horse will
not be as good because of the week-end off. By Friday, I would expect a much
quicker and better response from the cues. If I ride the horse consistently, I
can expect more response learning than a horse that is never ridden
When a horse is ridden inconsistently, it is like having Monday rides. You
cannot expect him to learn as fast as the horse that is ridden in consecutive
days consistently. Training horses correctly is not exciting to watch as when
they are truly learning, it is by one step at a time and sometimes not visible
to someone watching.
Remember that a horse that is re-acting is not necessarily learning correct
response. If your horse is not advancing, think about the differences in
re-acting and responding. Some horses are very light sided and quick and others
are slower moving and less responsive in their sides. We can always change up
our program to fit each horse. It is to our own advantage to note how our horse
responds to our cues and learns or re-acts from fear and does not advance. The
horse will tell you if you will listen to his body language and look at his
eyes. Let’s keep the spark in those eyes and the soreness from their body as
they learn from us.