What are we doing when we train horses? What are we doing when we train any animal? I believe we are teaching them tricks. Nothing more, nothing less. If we have a dog, we teach it to sit, stay, lie down and roll over. Fun stuff for entertaining friends, but when you ride the animal there is more to it than just entertaining. When you ride the animal there is safety, quick balancing movements and mutual respect. So the tricks need to be user friendly, like the brake and gas pedal in your car. The difference is that the horse is not a machine. The horse has a brain. He feels pain, reacts to outside influences, and thinks about his next meal. A machine does none of this, nor do you have to worry about keeping the machine happy.
A cue is when you, the rider, add pressure to the horse’s sides, back, mouth or neck, or use a voice command to get a desired response from the horse. If I ask you what 1 + 1 is, you would say 2. You learned this from a teacher or parent. When I squeeze both my legs the horse should move forward. He learned this from repetition, consistency and sweaty saddle pads. I ask the horse cues often, expect the same response, and I make him work at it.
The reason I explain this is a lot of people view riding a horse like driving a car. Get in and press buttons and things happen. It would be more like riding a motorcycle. There is balance and buttons on a motorcycle, but the bike doesn’t have a brain that could be mad at you … Or the more fun part – that tries for you.
The greatest thing ever is when the horse tries for you. When I say try, I mean the horse will do what you wanted even if you aren’t asking just right. It also is great because a horse can key on outside influences like a cow, or a jump, and react to those on his own.
What cues do you use, have trouble with, or want more information on?