I am a control freak. Pam tells me all the time to look at the big picture and not focus on the small stuff. As I get older I think I am getting better at this. When we train horses we Teach to the Test, or teach for the desired competition we want to attend. There are two ways to think about this.

One is to think of the end, and start to work toward that goal. The other is to have a series of controls that you teach the horse, put them all together, and then make the desired goal.

I see a lot of western pleasure trainers doing the first. They start in bitting rigs, then long line, then ride in a circle, and then ride all the way around the arena. The entire time they are keeping the horse in the frame they want, and at the speed they want. This process works off muscle memory. If the horse is put in this position enough times his muscles start to want to stay there, and it’s relatively easy to get the horse back to that position if it comes out of that position. Some people call this “locked in.”

I do more of the second. I like to teach a series of controls when they are started so it is easy to put the horse back into the position when it comes out. In the beginning when I’m riding the horse, I teach them to move their shoulder, move their hips, and to bend their neck toward their side. I don’t worry about if the horse stays in that position, or if his head is too low or too high – just that I can adjust his feet, and adjust his neck.

I’m really not sure which way is better. I have been doing this long enough that it would be hard for me to change, but I can see the value in both. A horse that knows if they are in a position the trainer will release pressure more than if the horse moves a direction the trainer releases the pressure, that horse will stay in position better. On the other hand a horse that is taught direction over position will be able to be piloted around the arena easier.

This may not be as much of a “how to” post as others, but I’m hoping to get your thoughts and reactions.

What do you think?

By |2014-09-17T08:31:57-05:00September 17th, 2014|Horses|2 Comments


  1. Avatar
    Jennifer Gardner Pavlick September 17, 2014 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    I think if you teach them body position and foot control eventually the "locked in" comes. It's important that a horse bends from the poll to the tail bone. I've riddled locked in horses but can't feel their rib cage bend and move, let alone turn them. Both are great training techniques however I like body control .

  2. Avatar
    Tom Theisen September 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    I like to think about training like I'm putting a puzzle together. One piece at a time. I figure if I work enough on each piece, the completed puzzle is available as needed.

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