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 afraid.

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 consistently.

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.


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Last modified: January 05, 2014