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understand your request with about three repetitions; too many repetitions can decrease the responsiveness of many horses. At times when a horse seems unable or unwilling to understand, consider giving him some time to think and try again when he is in a diff erent frame of mind. He may simply need a lit le time out or a walkabout. Cross-training and brain training can help keep horses interested in


their education. Cross-training can include ground driving and agility training or integrating trick training with saddle and ground training. Trick training is a fun and eff ective way to teach a horse to learn how to learn; i.e., brain training. When a horse enjoys learning, he begins to be mentally present in the moment and active in the training process. Rupert Isaacson, founder of The Horse Boy Method (www.


horseboyfoundation.org) integrates our trick training methods with the therapy horses he uses in teaching autistic children. Trick training helps the children stay focused as well as the horses and makes learning fun and engaging for them. Tricks such as herding the big ball can help to establish


a language between horse and handler while tapping into a horse’s natural curiosity and herding instinct. In other words, we are shaping natural behaviors to keep learn- ing both fun and functional. Every 30-minute session is important and will translate into reliability on the trail.


WANT A SUPER-RESPONSIVE SADDLE HORSE? START WITH GROUND DRIVING


T irty minutes a day is plenty of time to include


ground driving in your training schedule. Ground driv- ing a horse is a natural progression of in-hand work and a great way to help develop understanding of bit signals and the basics of direction and speed control. Driving will help to strengthen the topline from ears to tail, es- pecially with lateral moves and the halt and back. Sure, this can add a couple of weeks to your overall training time, but a horse can become light and responsive to the bit (your hands) long before the complexity of carrying a rider is added to the equation! Driving can be done in almost any headgear, includ-


ing a halter for young horses. Tactile and visual exami- nation of a horse’s mouth may help you choose an ap- propriate bit. Horses’ mouths can have lots of variations, such as fl eshy lips, high or low palate or a large tongue. If you need help selecting a bit, ask your veterinarian or trainer to help you. Bit ing options can be unique to each horse. Bits are not instantly interchangeable, as a horse must be taught the signal and correct response for each new bit; consequently, it is not realistic to switch, for instance, from a three-piece snaffl e to a grazing bit and expect the horse to automatically understand the diff erence in signals. A sidepull is a good choice to start young horses un-


der saddle, as is a bosal. We don’t use a bosal on gaited horses, however, as their natural head shake makes the bosal bounce on their nose. Sidepulls are great to begin driving, but we don’t use a bosal for driving as the long reins don’t allow proper balance or release of pressure.


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If you start a horse in a sidepull, as he matures a bit can be worn on a headstall underneath so he gradually becomes accustomed to carry- ing it. Carrying a bit in this manner before adding reins helps a young horse gain confi dence to pick the bit up and hold it with the tongue. To ground drive, you will need two long lines (about 22 feet) and


a surcingle. You can make driving lines yourself, and if you don’t have a surcingle, you can run the lines through the stirrups on a saddle, preferably western as the leather fenders give the lines more support. T e surcingle gives a smoother feel than using a saddle. If you taught your horse to move forward and make laps around


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