Bringing the horse and rider together and operating in sync can be accomplished through a training routine that involves ring work. The basic cues must be known by the rider in order to communicate directions to the horse, and the animal’s familiarity with cues can be determined in the ring. Once the rider has established the extent of the horses knowledge, a training routine can be planned.
A horse can be trained to respond to any number of cues, so the rider must be consistent with the cue that is desired for a particular move or response. In situations where the rider prefers subtle cues, the horse should be giving that cue initially, followed immediately by the cue that brings a response. In cases where a horse is particularly green, there may be two or more cues between the initial cue, and the animal’s response. By working this method effectively, the horse will begin to recognize the initial cue, and will respond as the rider wishes.
A rider’s subtle cues could be weight transfer, kissing or clicking with the mouth, dropping or raising the reins, and of course, leg cues. Some of these can be given in combination, such as dropping the reins and tightening the legs a bit, to encourage a cantor. The cue, or combination of cues, will be determined by the rider during the training process that takes place in the ring.
In the event the rider is not familiar with the proper cues, a trainer should be consulted. There are a lot of qualified horse trainers and most of them will use an approach that is predicated on first, getting the horse to respond to the basic cues. Depending on the horse’s familiarity with these cues, the timetable for this training will vary. Once the horse has become familiar with basic cues, the trainer will introduce the rider into the training routine. At this point, the rider will begin to learn the proper cues, and the communication between horse and rider can progress.
A sensible approach to training is essential in attaining positive results. A horse that is learning several cues, is also learning the rider at the same time. The animal can become confused, just as a person undergoing multi-task training might become confused. A confused or unwilling horse will react by throwing their head, lowering the ears, or swishing the tail and refusing to pick up a cue. When this happens, the rider should give the horse relief from the regiment by going to another manoeuvre, or by walking the animal around and talking in a calming tone. In simple terms, a horse is four or five times larger than a rider, and has the advantage in a contest.
Avoiding confrontations with the horse, and applying patience and consistency, are proven methods that will lead to positive results. The time spent training in the ring is important when establishing the communication between a horse and the rider.