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Cindy's Uncommon Horse Sense

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The amount of money you spend having your horse trained is not directly proportionate to how well your horse acts, itís the amount of time you spend with your horse once the professional training is over.

You might as well light fire to your training dollars if you send your horse to a trainer for 30, 60 or even 90 days, then bring him home, put him out to pasture and assume he will remember all his lessons when you take him for a ride in a couple of weeks or even months.

As far as I know, trainers work with your horse nearly everyday while in training. Thatís because horses, as all animals, learn through repetition. They may or may not work your horse for a long time period, but they work with them consistently every day. Once a lesson is learned that lesson has to be repeated and repeated until itís automatic, then a new lesson is introduced. But always the old lessons are reviewed.

They may be simple lessons like standing quietly while tied or being saddled, or they may be more complicated, but the key is consistency. If you donít want your horse to eat grass while haltered, then that has to be the case always. You canít get distracted talking to a friend and ďforgetĒ that your horse is eating. He will think, ďHey, I got away with it that time. Iíll try again next time.Ē Before you know it, youíve got a horse who constantly grabs for grass, tree limbs, anything he can eat. Then you have to start over and itís much harder to break a bad habit than to never let it get started in the first place.

If you want a horse who loads easily and stands quietly in the trailer, then youíve got to trailer him often until he gets the hang of it. I donít mean that you have to go anywhere each time, but put him in the trailer. If he loads easily and stands quietly, donít make him stay in there a long time. If he gives you a hard time, make him stand in there for awhile. He will soon figure out that if he loads easily and stands quietly, he doesnít have to stay in there as long. Then repeat this same lesson several times a week for a good month. The great thing about a horse is once they are trained in a habit, they rarely forget it.

I learned this lesson from a friend of mine, Mary, years ago. She had a horse, Sugar, that was hard to catch and she got tired of chasing her. So once she caught that horse, she tied her to a tree just outside the stables. Then she fed all the other horses. Sugar had to stand on that tree until all the other horses were through eating. I think it took three evenings of the ďtree trainingĒ to make Sugar easy to catch. But you better believe that if Sugar even thought about running from Mary, she stood on a tree. Consistency is the key.

When I say consistency, I am really saying time. Youíve got to spend time with your horse as often as possible. You donít even have to spend a lot of time, but you have to spend time often. If you go to the barn to pay your board, get your horse and lunge him for a few minutes. Practice having him disengage the rear end, whatever, but do something to remind your horse that you are the herd leader and nothing will ever change that. Remember, itís not how much money you spend, but how much time you spend weekly.

© 2006, Cindy Staudenmaier & UncommonHorseSense.com

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