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know what to do. As nothing gives him a release from the pressure, he resorts to more natural evasion tactics. As you remain trot ing serpentines, you can control the

speed with the act of turning. At this point, you do not use two hands at once. You use only one side to teach a soſt yield and then switch sides. It might take a few minutes, but your horse will see that a release happens and there is no point in rushing forward. As you continue, your horse will relax and begin trot ing far more slowly. In time, you can let your transitions from leſt to right become increasingly longer, straight lines until your horse remains in the slower jog. T en both of you will fi nd peace in straight lines in an open area.

MAINTENANCE Just as team ropers let cat le out of the chute without

chasing, reining horses avoid lead changes in the middle of an arena, barrel horses learn to walk through gates, endurance and backcountry horses also need to have pat erns changed to avoid anticipation. When rides start feeling and looking the same, your horse will learn that pat ern. T is is good for confi dence building, but not always great for rider control, as the horse starts thinking too much on her own. To avoid these issues, you can “school” your horse by changing pat erns on her. Walk where you normally lope, work on transitions more oſt en, serpentine in open spaces, break for grass at diff erent locations, go back and forth over a diffi cult obstacle instead of just surging over it once, and so forth.

MATURING THE HORSE I believe that each time a horse feels anxiety, we have the choice of

coming out the other side with a positive or negative result. When we make the wrong call or simply do nothing, we oſt en reinforce the anx- ious thought. However, when we reinforce correctly, we can mature the horse and help develop her responses to be aligned with our own wishes. I’ve met 10-year-old horses that are very immature. T ey cannot

handle pressure and are easily rat led. I’ve also met many three-year- olds that are very mature and understand our communication. T e diff erence is in their experiences. T e younger horse has had time given to him to teach him routines and signals. Yes, he has been stressed, but only reasonable amounts that are benefi cial to him. T e fi rst time he had a bath or got on a trailer was stressful, but with kind teaching, he learned to accept and even enjoy the predicable pat erns that were presented daily. I could list hundreds of stimuli, teaching pressures, and domestica- tion pat erns that are stressful. A horseman recognizes when stress is

As soon as this same gelding fi nds peace with quality teaching pressures and timely reinforcement—releases of pressure—he set les into steady movement and travels in a more healthy, relaxed frame.

occurring and helps the horse through it, by reinforcing the correct behavior and allowing full habituation to happen when needed. Use foundation lessons, such as the trot ing serpentines above, to

proactively teach your horse how to handle their natural anxiety, as well as the stresses that you put on her. If entering into pressure with your legs or hands creates bracing and negative reactions, then teach the horse how to handle these. T e early lessons do just that. T ey single out cues and responses and teach them in a methodical, progressive way that helps the horse deal with issues such as fear of wide-open spaces. I used to look at an “issue” and think about what I could specifi cally

do to solve it. It might be a horse that wouldn’t liſt a foot for a trim, take oral dewormer paste, or tossed her head when loping on the ridge. I now see that these “issues” are more indicators of what might not have been properly and thoroughly taught to her in the beginning. My answer to most issues now is, “Let’s start over and see where the real challenge lies.” Safe riding!

As a professional horseman, Sean Patrick spent much of his career in British Columbia as a mountain guide and packer. Sean continues to use his backcoun- try knowledge and experience while training in Florida with his wife Alisha at Pioneer Trail Reserve. Sean’s book and DVD set, “T e Modern Horse-

man’s Countdown to Broke,” is available from horseandriderbooks. com. Visit Sean on the web at


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