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Training horses is rewarding, but does need to be done with caution. Horses are large animals and need to be handled appropriately. Trained incorrectly and they can be dangerous. Trained correctly and they are remarkable partners. Below I’ll give you some tips to get you going.
First, establish respect on the ground. The basis of all training is respect. Basically, you’re establishing yourself as the dominant horse in the herd. You ask the horse to move, tell them to move, then make them move. Clinton Anderson, founder of Downunder Horsemanship, is very helpful at showing you the subtle cues your horse gives you in communication. You must make sure your horse respects your space. If they enter without permission, back them out.
When training, always start with groundwork and making sure your horse has good manners. This will make a good foundation for whatever discipline your horse will be doing. It is highly recommended, because of a horse’s size, you get professional help and direction. YouTube is a great source for visuals and there are many horse magazines that have helpful practice tips, such as Horse & Rider.
If you are beginner, I do not recommend starting with a colt. I know it seems fun to learn together, but habits that start early are hard to break. Find someone local to help you find a good beginner horse. Beginner horses are pretty set in their ways and can help you learn horsemanship and how to handle a horse.
There are a few basic ground rules to establish no matter what horse you bring home.
#1 No fighting when anyone with 2 legs is in the pen. This is one my mom’s horses had when we were growing up and my herd now has the same rules. Anyone caught ear pinning, biting, or kicking is immediately chased to the far corner and held there until they apologize (lower their head). This is important especially if you have small children. Horses are like magnets to kids, and don’t always understand to look out for horses’ behavior.
#2 Respect my space. No horse is allowed into my space without permission. Stand in a hula hoop and that is about the space you are looking at. This ensures no one is getting run over. With this in mind, as you work with your horse more, you will be able to back them out of your space with your body only. Your eyes and body language have great power when communicating with them.
Horses are truly remarkable animals, and learning to communicate with them opens a world of possibilities. The more time you spend with them, the more easily you will be able to communicate with them.
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