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How to Inspire your Horse

how-to-inspire-your-horseDuring Straightness Training it’s important that your horse not only understands what you want him to do, but that he’s is also inspired and willing and motivated to meet your request.

Especialy during ST at liberty it’s important that your horse feels inspired, because when you ask your horse to do something ‘difficult’ or if you ask for something that requires a lot of effort and energy, such as the piaffe, it’s important that he will still choose to stay with you rather than to leave you.

Now at liberty a horse may stay with you when you don’t ask him anything or when all the things you ask him to do are very easy. But as soon as he has to work a little harder, or you leave the ‘comfort zone’ and you enter the ‘stretch zone’ with your horse, he may choose to leave. But he will not if he’s inspired and motivated to meet your request from the inside out.

Therefore you need to be sure your horse is interested in and inspired by you, that he’s motivated to work with you and that he’s attracted to you. If you have enough draw for your horse, if he sees you as the best place to be, no matter what, he will not leave you at liberty, even though he has to work a little extra or has to put some serious effort to get the job done.

Of course the same ‘spirit’ of the horse is also desirable not only at liberty but also in the other training components – groundwork, longeing, work in hand or riding.

Now here are 8 tips on how to inspire your horse:

Tip #1: Hang out

hangingoutBefore you start any kind of training, just hang out with your horse in the field or paddock and do nothing. Just be together, so act like a human ‘being’, not as a human ‘doing’ 😉 Don’t always ask things from your horse, don’t always want to DO something with your horse. Horses love to do nothing and doing nothing together will increase the chances that your horse sees you as a fun  place to be.

Tip #2: Use voice rewards

When it comes to training horses, a powerful way to inspire and motivate your horse is to use your voice. For example use a long “goooooooood” when you are satisfied with the horse’s attempt so he can stop.

You can also use your voice to encourage him, for example with a short and repeated “good-good-good”, then the horse feels motivated and supported and he knows that the longer “gooooooooood” is on it’s way. This will inspire the horse to keep trying and to give his best.

Tip #3: Give him a warm bath of loving energy

warm-bathSupermanThe moment you are really satisfied with the effort he puts in to meeting your request, give him a warm bath of loving energy and tell him that he’s the best horse in the world.

Or even better, make him feel that he’s Mister Universe!

Tip #4: Release often, quickly, early, long

While training our horse we will put some form of pressure on our horse, even when we are training at liberty. The pressure can come from our strong focus, our energy, our will power, our body language, or from our whip or reins or longe line. Now avoid too much, too long or unexpected pressure at any times, to not annoy him and to not nag him, and make sure to release often quickly, early and long to keep his motivation.

long-breakTip #5: Give him looooooong breaks

After some ‘hard work’ or some work in the ‘stretch zone’, reward, release and even better: give him a loooooooong break and let him relax and rest with you.

During this rest he has time to digest and to process things in his mind and he will figure out that you are definitely a ‘sweet’ spot in the working area by giving him this looooooong break.

Tip #6: Über release

uber-releaseIt can be very powerful to not only give a release by letting go of your focus, energy and willpower, but to really “über release” by stepping back, by giving him more space, or even by walking away from the horse. That will take off all possible pressure and it will give the horse a comfortable feeling, and…. often he starts to follow you!

Tip #7: Use food rewards

When the timing and dosing of a food reward is good, food rewards can be very powerful. It can inspire the horse to put some extra effort in the job and it can give an extra dimension to the motivation of the horse. food-rewardHe will work a little harder to get the food rewards and he sticks around you because he knows there is something in it for him.

However, bad timing can of course lead to ‘begging’ and ‘biting’, so it’s never the food, it’s always the human behind the food. Also take care that the horse sees the food reward as a gift from you to him and that he doesn’t have the assumption that he’s ‘taking’ it from you. That might look like a slight difference, but it’s a significant one!

Tip #8: Festina Lente

liberty-piaffeRemember to “haste slowly”. So only do little bits at a time and don’t ask for too much, too long,  and avoid that your horse starts to feel annoyed or frustrated, because that will demotivate your horse and at liberty that will make him choose to leave you.

So take one step at a time, release often/early/quickly/long and reward him for every step in the right direction.

(feel free to share your special tip below 😉 ), but I hope these 7 tips helps a little and I hope they might ‘inspire’ you to bring out the best in your horse!

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5 thoughts on “How to Inspire your Horse

Comment author said

By Bente Lis Dietrich on 18 September 2015 at 10:31

theese are very usefull and inspirering tips. Thank you.
Lately I have discovered that my horse tels me enough is enough. She just stop and refuses to move. And I was so touched and happy to get the message and stop what I was trying doing. And she loosened up and followed me willingly.


Comment author said

By Deirdre Stephenson on 25 October 2015 at 10:04

So delighted to read this style of training as completely sensitive to the horses welfare and state of emotional mind during training. Will you ever be in Ireland Giving courses


Comment author said

By Sabine Reynoso on 28 October 2015 at 04:29

Love these tips!!! I rescued a now 3 yr old TB a year and a half ago. He was very skiddish at the time, curious but unsure of people. Time, patience and love has turned him around 100%. He now wants to be with people and is very sweet. Still a bit reactive at times, but that’s what’s expected from a young one, nothing out of the ordinary.
I love him to pieces! 🙂


Comment author said

By Hertha James on 23 March 2016 at 01:43

Superb expression of how to keep a horse motivated, at liberty or not. If using food rewards, it is wise to look into the proper mechanics of equine clicker training before starting. Many horses love to work if there is a reward that makes sense to them. But as Marijke has pointed out, there are traps to avoid.
Using food rewards activates the very basic part of the brain to ‘seek’ out how to earn more of the treats. That means the horse becomes pro-active in finding what will make you click&treat, rather than just reactive to following your direction in order to gain release from your signal energy.


Comment author said

By Frances Swanepoel on 31 March 2016 at 12:19

not a comment but a query. How to start lunging an older horse who doent understand lunging concept. Just walks to-wards one and stands with head over shoulder. Terrified of whips


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