Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rewards and work ethic – Guest post by Mugwump


I love this post – it makes so much sense when you are looking to train good work ethic in a young horse.  Release and reward: use it wisely and it’ll work wonders!  Here’s how, as detailed by Mugwump from the Mugwump Cronicles.



Can you tell me what you mean by rewards in this case that the owners should have provided? What should they have done in this case? And why would the horses rebel? How can you make it so they are happy and don't rebel?

I had a different plan for today, but this question is so good, I'm going to cover it in today's post.

My training method is a fairly common one, I've developed it in bits and pieces from the clinicians I've seen, the trainers I've worked with, and the horses I ride.  I'm sure that many, if not most of you, will recognize things I say and do as methods that come from other trainers.  I never will claim to have invented any of this stuff, so if I sound like I have, understand I am continually learning and trying new and old things. It's all mixed up in a jumble of what works for me, and I have made it my own. But I sure as hell had to learn it somewhere.

When I start a horse the first thing I set up is a reward system.  To my mind, the horse doesn't really care if I pet it or praise it. Horses spend their life looking for the big four {Eat, sleep, run and poop!}, none of which have anything to do with me. I like to pet horses, but that's for my benefit, not theirs.

To them, a reward is to leave them be.

When I step to them, that creates pressure.

When I step away, it relieves pressure. Stepping away is a reward.

The first time I saddle I step to them with the pad, then away with the pad when they tolerate it.  So the reward is to have the pressure of me and the pad taken away.  And so on.

The horse learns that if it does what I ask, I'll relieve their pressure.  After the first ride I step off and loosen the cinch, then I put them up. The reward is the release of the cinch, and quitting for the day.  In the beginning I release them by putting them up for every positive step they take.

They really start looking for that positive step.  As I get farther along I increase what I ask for.  I want more and more from them before I give them the big release.  In the middle they get small rewards for being good.

After each properly executed manoeuvre I let them stand for a few minutes on a loose rein.  All my horses will stand rock still with the reins hanging after the first 10 rides or so. They know if they are quiet I'll let them stand. If they move I don't pull them down, we just go back to work. With enthusiasm. 

I rest them often.  I try to make a clear decision with each horse, for each ride. I will either ride them past their comfort zone, and deal with the fall out, or I'll quit before they get to the point of arguing with me. 

If a horse starts to fade or misbehave because I've pushed them, I make them mind, and we work until I have their focus again. Then I quit.  This builds a try into them that's really satisfying.

If I have to ask for more, they'll always give it.

Not because they love me.

Not because I give them carrots.

Because they trust me.

They trust my consistency.

They trust my leadership.

They know for a fact that if they try, I will get off, and leave them be.
I'll let them continue their equine quest for the big four….

….[to read the rest of the post go here]….

All the hugs, kisses, pats on the nose, or whispering sweet nothings in their ear, will never replace being fair.

If you're not sure how, start reading….

And now it's time to get riding. Later.

Wise words from Mugwump – I love her blog and her way of training; it just make sense to me.  Check out the Mugwump Chronicles for more Mgwumpy goodness!

See ya!


1 comment:

  1. I agree - success with horses comes from a mixture of leadership and fairness.

    Keeping them busy helps too.

    Any petting is for my benefit.


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